Thursday 19 April 2018

Srebia extradites Hadic to war crimes court in The Hague

Serbia today extradited the last ethnic Serb wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, in a symbolic moment for the once-pariah Balkan nation's European future.

A police motorcade drove Goran Hadzic, a wartime leader of Croatia's Serbs, to Belgrade airport, where he boarded a flight to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity committed during the 1991-95 war in Croatia.

"Goran Hadzic is en route to the Hague," Serbian justice minister Snezana Malovic said shortly after noon (1000 GMT).

The European Union has insisted that Serbia arrest all wanted war criminals before it grants candidate status for membership.

A lesser known figure from the Balkan wars, Hadzic was on the run for seven years before his arrest on Wednesday, outlasting Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic as the last suspect at large.

"This is a symbolic event for Serbia. It has closed this extremely heavy page and the tribunal will fade away as an important issue very soon," said Zoran Dragisic, and analyst with Belgrade's International Institute for Security think tank.

"Mladic's arrest was a landmark moment. Hadzic was a figurehead and an insignificant character and he had the sheer luck to remain the last fuguitive."

Serbian security officials arrested Hadzic on a forest road in the Fruska Gora national park region about 65 km north of Belgrade.

Hadzic's wife and son visited him in prison on Thursday, and then another woman with a daughter he fathered while on the run made a final visit on Friday, witnesses at the courthouse said.

Serbian officials also allowed Hadzic to visit his sick mother in Serbia's second largest town before his departure.

In contrast to the public reaction to the arrest of Mladic and his wartime commander Radovan Karadzic three years ago, few Serbs lamented Hadzic's departure.

A satirical Serbian website captured the mood by running a photograph of a few pedestrians walking on Belgrade's main square under the ironical headline: "Serbs protest the arrest of Goran Hazdic on Republic Square."

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