Belgrade, Serbia: Last UN War Crimes Fugitive Goran Hadzic Arrested By Authorities: UPDATED

20 Jul

NEWS UPDATE:

In this photo provided by the Politika newspaper shows war crimes fugitive Goran Hadzic on Mt. Fruska Gora, Serbia Wednesday July 20, 2011. Serbian authorities tracked down war crimes fugitive Goran Hadzic in the northern mountains Wednesday arresting the last remaining fugitive sought by the U.N. war crimes court after eight years on the run.(AP Photo/Politika newspaper, HO) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

In this photo provided by the Politika newspaper shows war crimes fugitive Goran …

 

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — The last fugitive sought by the U.N.’s Balkan war crimes tribunal was seized Wednesday morning as an accomplice delivered him cash in a remote mountain forest, secretly watched by black-masked Serbian secret police chasing a money trail that began with a photograph of a Modigliani painting.

The arrest of Goran Hadzic, former leader of Croatia’s ethnic Serbs, was hailed as the symbolic closure of a horrific chapter in Balkan history, and an important step toward the former pariah state of Serbia joining the European Union.

Less than two months after the capture of Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, who was accused of some of the worst atrocities of the war in the former Yugoslavia, Serbia’s Western-leaning president told his nation that “we have turned a difficult and grim page of our history.”

“It was our moral duty,” President Boris Tadic said live on national television. “We have done this for the sake of citizens of Serbia, we have done this for the sake of the victims among other nations, we have done this for the sake of reconciliation.”

Hadzic was a warehouse worker in 1991 when Yugoslavia broke up and Croatia’s minority Serbs rose in opposition to the country’s independence.

He swiftly rose to prominence through his links to Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic’s secret police, taking charge of an ethnic Serbian ministate created by the brutal expulsion of non-Serbs from one third of Croatia’s territory.

Black-bearded, with nearly black eyes and a piercing stare, he worked closely with criminal gangs that made huge profits from smuggled cars, gasoline and cigarettes.

He also cooperated with paramilitary forces that became notorious for their brutality, including the “Tigers” led by Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan.

According to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Hadzic was among those responsible 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 of the Croatian war, 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 12 miles (20 kilometers) 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.

About 10,000 people died in the war, which ended after Croatia retook the territories in 1995.

The Hague tribunal indicted Hadzic in 2004 on 14 charges including war crimes and crimes against humanity, among them the murder, torture, deportation and forcible transfer of Croats and other non-Serbs.

For years, Hadzic narrowly escaped arrest, apparently due to tips from within the Serbian security services. Defense lawyer Toma Fila said Wednesday that Hadzic had spent some time out of the country, but did not specify where or when. Serbia’s postwar authorities have long faced accusations that they were not doing enough to hunt down war-crimes suspects.

Last year, Serbian authorities found a photo of a painting by Italian master Amedeo Modigliani while searching the home of Hadzic’s good friend Zoran Mandic.

They determined that Mandic was trying to sell the work, “Portrait of a Man,” along with a number of valuable other paintings, and realized that Hadzic might be running out of cash and financing his continued freedom through the sale of art owned by him and his friends, authorities said.

“The painting opened Pandora’s Box,” deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric said, adding that he believed it was worth 22 million euros ($31 million). That estimate could not immediately be confirmed.

For months, state security agents monitored the financial network of Hadzic’s suspected aides and his support network, including friends and family.

“This, combined with stepped up pressure on the family and constant searches of the houses of Hadzic’s family and friends, finally led to results,” Vekaric said.

Serbian security police found out that Hadzic was meeting a money courier Wednesday morning, arresting him in a forest outside the village of Krusedol in a hilly northern Serbian region where many of his relatives live, war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told reporters.

Hadzic was balding and beardless, and was armed but did not resist, they said.

Hours later, he 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 extradition within days.

State TV footage showed Hadzic entering the courtroom escorted by guards. He walked slowly, slightly hunched, wearing a gray shirt and a mustache.

Fila said Hadzic is a “reasonable man” who only wants to see his family before his extradition.

In October, the EU’s executive arm is due to present a progress report on Serbia that is now expected to conclude that the country has fulfilled the requirements for candidacy. That report is scheduled to be adopted by member states by December, allowing talks on accession to open by spring.

It would then take several years for Serbia to negotiate and meet the government and economic reforms that the EU demands. Legislation and new laws will be required on everything from farming to financial markets.

Tim Judah, a London-based Balkan analyst and author, said Hadzic’s arrest “should also put an end any kind of lingering doubts about Serbia’s sincerity within the EU,” Judah said.

Tadic, leader of the center-left Democratic Party, needs support from the EU to boost his government’s position ahead of general elections next year, taking place amid a deepening economic crisis.

Recent surveys have shown that Tadic could lose the vote to the conservative opposition unless he manages to raise hopes of recovery, foreign investment and new jobs.

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.

_____

Slobodan Lekic contributed from Brussels.

————–

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbian authorities have arrested Goran Hadzic, the last remaining fugitive sought by the U.N. war crimes court, TV station B92 reported Wednesday.

FILE - In this 1991 file photo of Goran Hadzic, a wartime leader of the self-declared breakaway Serb republic of Krajina.  It has been reported on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 by Serbian TV station B92 says authorities have arrested Goran Hadzic, the last remaining fugitive sought by the U.N. war crimes court. Hadzic has been on the run for eight years. He is wanted for atrocities stemming from the 1991-1995 war in Croatia. (AP Photo/Srdjan Ilic, File )

Hadzic, the leader of Croatia’s rebel Serbs during the country’s 1991-1995 war, has been on the run for eight years. He is wanted for atrocities stemming from the war, when he fought against Croatia’s independence from the former Yugoslavia.

Authorities would not confirm the report, but President Boris Tadic‘s office called a news conference for later Wednesday morning.

His arrest, less than two months after the capture of Gen. Ratko Mladic, would remove a major obstacle for Belgrade’s efforts to reintegrate into the international community following years of international sanctions and pariah status in the 1990s, when Serbia — led at the time by nationalist president Slobodan Milosevic — was widely viewed as the main culprit for the wars in the Balkans.

Hadzic was indicted in 2004 with war crimes and crimes against humanity, including “persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, extermination, murder, torture, deportation and forcible transfer” as well as “wanton destruction … or devastation.”

The indictment alleges that Hadzic committed the crimes with an aim to drive the Croats and other non-Serbs from the territories controlled by his self-styled authorities.

Hadzic has managed to evade justice for years, despite international pressure for his arrest. He narrowly escaped arrest in northern Serbia, apparently thanks to a tip from within the Serbian security authorities.

The country’s post-war authorities have for years faced accusations that they are not doing enough to hunt down the war crimes suspects. The issue had also blocked Serbia’s bid at EU membership. The country now hopes to become a candidate for entry later this year.

More than 10,000 people died in the Croatian war which ended when Zagreb retook the territories held by the Serbs in 1995.

Serbia’s wartime president Milosevic was extradited to the Hague tribunal in 2001 and died there in 2006, while on trial for genocide.

NEWS UPDATE:

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia’s last major warcrimes fugitive, a Croatian Serb wartime leader indicted for crimes against humanity during the 1991-95 Croatian war, has been arrested, a Serbian official told Reuters on Wednesday.

Goran Hadzic was a key figure in the breakaway Krajina Serb republic in Croatia, and after the arrest of wartime General Ratko Mladic earlier this year, he was Serbia’s last remaining figure sought by the United Nations warcrimes tribunal in the Hague.

Serbia’s President Boris Tadic scheduled an urgent news conference for 11 a.m. (0900 GMT)

(Reporting by Adam Tanner and Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Jon Boyle)

 

Serbia arrests last war crimes fugitive: TV

Serbia arrests last war crimes fugitive: …

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