Serbia: Goran Hadjic appears in court

Goran Hadzic, the last person wanted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), has made his first appearance before the court today after being arrested on July 20. He was required to submit a guilty or not guilty plea, but instead his lawyers asked for and received a thirty-day extension on this deadline. Hadzic was indicted on 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2004 for his role in the ethnic conflict that erupted in Croatia during the breakup of Yugoslavia.

From 1991 to 1993 Hadzic was leader of the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK), a group that fought for Serb independence from Croatia. During the fighting hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands displaced as RSK forces sought to clear about one third of the country of non-Serb ethnic groups in an attempt to establish a new state. The conflict was put to a halt only after a NATO intervention.

Hadzic’s 14 counts range from torture and unlawful imprisonment to persecution and murder of people of non-Serb ethnicity. He is also accused of helping to carry out the infamous Vukovar Massacre, in which 264 people, identified as wounded Croatian soldiers and non-Serb civilians, were removed from a hospital in the town of Vukovar and executed at a nearby farm.

Hadzic’s arrest comes only two-months after the arrest of suspected war criminal Ratko Mladic by Serbian police. Because the European Union has tied Serbia’s accession to the apprehension of all suspected war criminals, these arrests may have opened a new chapter in Serbian-EU relations by making the prospect of serious accession talks a real possibility. However, Belgrade denies that this was part of their motive. In a statement, Serbian president Boris Tadic said he believes the nation has finally “completed its most difficult chapter in cooperation with the ICTY.”

Photo: Associated Press

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