Serbia′s last war crimes suspect braced for trial | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 21.07.2011

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Serbia's last war crimes suspect braced for trial

Goran Hadzic, Serbia's last fugitive is expected to be transferred to the UN tribunal in The Hague on Friday, his lawyer has said. The Croatian Serb suspect will spend his last days in Serbia meeting with his family.

Goran Hadzic

Goran Hadzic is charged with crimes against humanity

Goran Hadzic's family has visited the jailed war crimes suspect in a Belgrade prison, ahead of his upcoming extradition to the UN war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands.

Hadzic's wife, sister and son went to the detention unit of the Serbian war crimes tribunal early Thursday.

Following Goran Hadzic's arrest on Wednesday, a Serbian court is expected to send him to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague on Friday.

This was confirmed by Hadzic's lawyer, who said Friday was a "realistic" date, after his client refused his right to appeal a Serbian court's decision to transfer him.

The arrest

Hadzic's arrest was announced by Serbian President Boris Tadic in a press conference broadcast live on national television on Wednesday morning.

Serbian President Boris Tadic

Tadic denied that Hadzic could have been caught sooner

"This morning at 8:24 am Goran Hadzic was arrested. With this Serbia ends the most difficult chapter in its cooperation with The Hague tribunal," Tadic said.

Hadzic was taken into custody in the Fruska Gora mountain region of northern Serbia. He was a key figure in the breakaway Krajina Serb republic during the Croatian war of the early 1990s.

He has been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the murders of hundreds of people and the deportation of tens of thousands of Croats between 1992 and 1993.

His indictment specifically mentions the 1991 Vukovar massacre of around 250 mainly Croat civilians.

Hadzic had lived openly in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad until July of 2004, when the tribunal delivered a warrant for his arrest to Belgrade. He had been in hiding until his arrest on Wednesday morning.

Dragging heels?

Responding to a reporter's question at the press conference, President Tadic rejected the suggestion that Serbian authorities could have arrested Hadzic much earlier.

The UN's Scheveningen detention centre

Hadzic will be held at the UN detention center in The Hague

"It has been very difficult for us to investigate these people... I confirm once again we did everything possible and I am very proud of everybody who has been working on this issue," he said.

Hadzic was the last remaining fugitive of 161 indicted by the war crimes tribunal, following the arrest of former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic in May.

The chief prosecutor at the tribunal in The Hague, Serge Brammertz said he "welcomed" the arrest.

"Hadzic's transfer is a long-awaited development for the victims of the crimes charged against him. It is also an important milestone in the tribunal's history," Brammertz said in a statement.

The arrest of all war crimes suspects is a condition for Serbia to move closer towards European Union membership.

His arrest was also welcomed by the European Union's top officials. A joint statement from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the bloc's foreign policy coordinator Catherine Ashton read: "This is a further important step for Serbia in realizing its European perspective and equally crucial for international justice,"

Author: Chuck Penfold, Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (Reuters, dpa, AFP)
Editor: Ben Knight

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