The U.N. charged Goran Hadzic with crimes against humanity for activities during Balkan wars
The last fugitive sought by the U.N. Balkan war crimes tribunal was arrested by Serbian authorities Wednesday, answering intense international demands for his capture and boosting the country’s hopes of becoming a candidate for European Union membership.
Former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic was taken into custody as he met a man delivering him money in a forest in a mountainous region of northern Serbia where many of his relatives live, authorities said. He had dramatically changed his appearance and was armed but did not resist, they said.
Hours later, Hadzic was brought in for questioning at the war crimes court in the capital Belgrade, a key step toward his extradition to the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. His lawyer said Hadzic will not appeal the process, paving the way for a quick extradition, possibly within the next few days.
State TV footage showed Hadzic entering the courtroom escorted by guards. He walked slowly, slightly hunched, wearing a gray shirt, short hair and a mustache. His black beard had been shaved.
An unknown figure before the 1991-1995 ethnic war for control of Croatia, Hadzic suddenly rose to prominence through his links to Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic’s secret police. Put in charge of the self-styled Serb ministate in eastern Croatia, he was seen as a pawn of criminal gangs that collaborated heavily with the secret police and made huge profits from smuggled cars, gasoline and cigarettes.
The Hague tribunal indicted him in 2004 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity including the murder, torture, deportation and forcible transfer of Croats and other non-Serbs from the territories he controlled.
Less than two months after the capture of Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, Serbia’s Western-leaning president announced live on national television that “Serbia has concluded its most difficult chapter in the cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.”
“It was our moral duty,” President Boris Tadic said. “We have done this for the sake of citizens of Serbia, we have done this for the sake of the victims amongst other nations, we have done this for the sake of reconciliation, we have done this for the sake of establishing credibility of all societies, not only Serbian society.”
In his indictment Hadzic is accused of responsibility for the 1991 leveling of Vukovar, said to be the first European city entirely destroyed since World War II.
In one of the worst massacres in the Croatian conflict, Serb forces seized at least 264 non-Serbs from Vukovar Hospital after a three-month siege of the city, took them to a nearby pig farm, tortured, shot and buried them in an unmarked mass grave.
A month before about 20 kilometers (12.43 miles) southwest of Vukovar, about 50 Croats who had been detained for forced labor were made to walk through a minefield to render it safe for the Serbs, according to the indictment.
“Upon reaching the minefield, the detainees were forced to enter the minefield and sweep their feet in front of them to clear the field of mines,” it said.
Hadzic worked with paramilitary forces that became notorious for their brutality, including the “Tigers,” led by Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan. In that same month of October 1991, Arkan’s men captured 28 civilians from a police facility in Dalj, tortured them and threw their bodies in the Danube. Arkan was assassinated in a Belgrade hotel in 2000.
Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, said the arrests of Mladic and Hadzic “mark a long-awaited step forward in Serbia’s cooperation.”
EU leaders immediately welcomed the arrest and saluted “the determination and commitment” of Tadic’s government.
“This is a further important step for Serbia in realizing its European perspective and equally crucial for international justice,” said a joint statement by EU president Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barrios and foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
A tribunal statement said Hadzic will be transferred to The Hague as soon as judicial procedures are completed in Serbia. That normally takes several days.
He will then be brought before a judge to hear a reading of the 14 charges against him. He may enter a plea or delay for a month.
Tribunal president O-Gon Kwon said the arrest was a milestone in the history of the court, which has indicted 161 leaders from the former Yugoslavia since it was created in 1993 at the height of the fighting.
The tribunal has been under U.N. pressure to wind up its cases and close its doors.
Serbian security police found out that Hadzic was meeting a money courier and arrested him Wednesday morning outside the village of Krusedol, Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told reports.
Until this week, Tadic said, Serbian officials did not know where Goran Hadzic was, despite suspicions that he had been sheltered by former allies.
In the past, Hadzic had narrowly escaped arrest, apparently due to tips from within the Serbian security authorities. Serbia’s post-war authorities have for years faced accusations that they are not doing enough to hunt down the war crimes suspects.
Serbia, widely viewed as the main culprit for the wars in the Balkans, has been working to reintegrate into the international community following years of sanctions and pariah status in the 1990s.
Milosevic was extradited to the Hague tribunal in 2001 and died there in 2006, while on trial for genocide.
Along with Mladic, Serbia has also arrested war crimes fugitives Radovan Karadzic. Both are currently facing war crimes charges in the Hague.
Dusan Stojanovic and Slobodan Lekic contributed.
More Related Stories
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
- DHS admits "impossible" to control 3D-printed guns
- Journalists file suit against Manning trial secrecy
- Russia: Syrian regime ready to talk peace
- Report: Nearly a quarter of all Americans struggle to afford food
- Ted Cruz against the world
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- 2 men arrested for endangering commercial aircraft
- Oversized load blamed for bridge collapse
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- Lawyers release data in attempt to discredit Trayvon Martin
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Bridge collapse: Part of "aging infrastructure"
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Interstate 5 bridge collapses north of Seattle
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11