Croatia also bids for war criminal’s extradition

Goran Hadzic.jpg

Croatia joined The Hague tribunal yesterday (21 July) in demanding the extradition of war criminal Goran Hadži?, who was arrested two days ago in Serbia. With the last fugitive war criminals from the former Yugoslavia now finally behind bars, many are asking how he was able to hide for so long and who helped him.

On Thursday the Croatian government called on the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Justice to take all the necessary steps to take charge of the trial of Goran Hadži? for war crimes and other serious crimes committed in Croatia, the Croatian agency HINA reported.

Zagreb also wants to ensure that Hadži? serves two prison sentences that had been imposed on him in absentia by Croatian courts.

Hadži? was arrested on 20 July near the village of Krusedol on Mount Fruska Gora, after seven years in hiding. He is the last of 161 indictees to be extradited to the Hague tribunal's detention unit in the Dutch town of Scheveningen. He has been in hiding since 2004, when the prosecution in The Hague raised the indictment against him.

A former president of the Republic of Serbian Krajna in Croatia, Hadži? is considered responsible for the systematic elimination of the non-Serb population from Croatian territory as well as for atrocities committed during the siege of the eastern Croatian city of Vukovar in 1991.

Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said that Hadži?'s victims had been waiting too long for his arrest and that many of them had not lived to see the day when he would face justice.

"Hadži? was one of the most ardent implementers of Milosevic's aggressive policy of Serbian territorial expansion. People from eastern Croatia and many others can best testify about it," Kosor said. She added that Hadži? was a Croatian citizen, citing data from the Ministry of Administration.

Chief Hague Tribunal Prosecutor Serge Brammertz on 21 July welcomed the arrests of Ratko Mladi? and Goran Hadži?, hailing them as a "great success" for the Serbian authorities. At the same time, he said he was "very interested" in where they had been hiding until their arrest and who had helped them.

Speaking to BETA agency, Brammertz praised the authorities in Belgrade, underlining that they had "fulfilled their most important international obligation" by arresting Mladi? and Hadži?.

Brammertz also said he would be "very interested" to know where Mladi? and Hadži? had been all this time, who supported them and how it had been possible for them to remain at large since 1995 and 2004 respectively.

"We want to know where they were, what were the obstacles standing in the way of their arrest and why they were not arrested sooner," said the ICTY chief prosecutor.

In the meantime, the extradition of Hadži? to The Hague appears immiment.

A Reuters witness saw this morning a convoy of cars arrive at Belgrade airport. However, when Serbia extradited Mladi? in May, officials sent a decoy convoy in the direction of the airport while the former general was allowed to visit his daughter's grave.

The European Commission insists that cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is crucial for both Serbia and Croatia's hopes of EU membership.

Last May, EU leaders welcomed the arrest of war criminal Ratko Mladi? by the Serbian authorities. He was transferred to The Hague, where he is standing trial.

The Netherlands has so far insisted more than any other EU country that Serbia fully cooperates with ICTY. Indeed, The Hague has a special interest in Serbian war criminals. In 2002, the government of Wim Kok accepted partial responsibility and resigned for having mishandled the situation in Srebrenica.

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