The first Croatian to stand trial for atrocities during the four-year Serbo-Croat war flew to The Hague yesterday, wearing full military uniform decorated with medals.
General Rahim Ademi was met by Dutch police at Schipol airport in Amsterdam and taken to the UN detention unit near The Hague, where he was placed in custody with other suspects, including Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president.
General Ademi, who has protested his innocence, surrendered voluntarily to face charges that include five counts of crimes against humanity. He is accused of overseeing a campaign in 1993 that left at least 38 Serb civilians dead, some with gruesome injuries, and hundreds of homes in ashes. Among those for whose murder the general is held responsible are a 74-year-old blind woman who was shot and a 62-year-old man who was stabbed, shot and had his genitals removed.
Yesterday's surrender was an important step for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, because it brought proof of co- operation from the authorities in Zagreb. The tribunal has been bitterly divisive within Croatia, and agreement by the pro-Western government to cooperate with The Hague provoked a political crisis.
Yesterday Jim Landale, spokesman for the tribunal, called General Ademi's surrender "a positive step". However, another indicted general, thought to be General Ante Gotovina, remains at large, and his supporters have threatened unrest if he is transferred to The Hague.
Many Croatians are aghast at the indictments of military leaders they believe saved them from Serb forces who killed thousands of civilians. Goran Ivanisevic, the Wimbledon champion, said that the tribunal wants "to lock up our generals for fighting to defend our country".
Before leaving Zagreb, General Ademi said: "I am proud of my role in the war ... My conscience is completely clear."Reuse content