Serbia arrests last war crimes fugitive

Serbia arrested the last major war crimes suspect from the 1990s conflicts in former Yugoslavia today, closing what its president said was a "burdensome" page in the country's history.



Goran Hadzic, a Croatian Serb wartime leader indicted for crimes against humanity during the 1991-1995 Croatian war, was picked up by Serb forces in the picturesque Fruska Gora national park region about 40 miles north of Belgrade.



"We nabbed him while he was about to meet a helper. He had changed his appearance somewhat and had fake papers on him," an operative familiar with the case told Reuters. "He did not resist arrest, but we were ready for all contingencies."



Hadzic, 52, was a key figure in the breakaway Krajina Serb republic in Croatia, and after the arrest of wartime Serb General Ratko Mladic earlier this year, he was the last suspect sought by the United Nations war crime tribunal in The Hague.



"We have closed a burdensome and gloomy page of our history," said President Boris Tadic, who called a special news conference to announce the arrest.



"We did this for the people of Serbia, for other nations, for the victims and for reconciliation."



The European Union, which hailed Belgrade for finding Mladic in May, had insisted on Hadzic's arrest for Serbia to progress towards European Union membership.



"This is a further important step for Serbia in realising its European perspective and equally crucially for international justice," three top EU officials said in a joint statement welcoming the arrest.



Tadic said Serbian security agents arrested Hadzic near the village of Krusedol, a short drive from the Croatian town where he was born.



Fruska Gora contains many holiday homes and 16 Serbian Orthodox monasteries.



Tadic did not say where he had been hiding, but, seeking to squash speculation that either the church or military had harboured him, he said Hadzic was not arrested in a monastery or a military barracks.



Parts of the military had helped Mladic evade arrest for years and the Serbian Orthodox church played a controversial role in the Yugoslav wars, often stoking the flames of nationalism against Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks, who largely descend from the same stock of south Slavs as the Serbs.







Hadzic's arrest, and that of Mladic, follows intensive work by Serbian officials over the past three years, Tadic said, citing the killing of Osama bin Laden earlier this year after a decade-long US manhunt.



"We also had the same situation," he said.



Hadzic is charged with ordering the killing of hundreds and the deportation of thousands of Croats and other non-Serbs from the region of Croatia he took over.



Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said her country had waited too long.



"Of course the arrest of Hadzic is good news for humanity and the whole world, but first and foremost for us in Croatia," she told a news conference in Warsaw via an interpreter.



For years Hadzic was overshadowed by the higher profile ethnic Serb fugitives Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, and his military commander Mladic. Hadzic may ultimately be remembered mostly as the man who evaded justice longer than others charged with crimes in the 1990s Yugoslav wars.



"He is much more discreet than the others in terms of personality and what he did," said Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, a member of European Parliament who served during the war with UN forces in the region of Croatia where Hadzic was a regional leader. "He was not a particularly notable personality."







Both Nato and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a former EU and UN Envoy to the region, said it closed an important chapter in recent European history.



"I warmly congratulate Serbia," Bildt said.



The UN war crimes prosecutor Serge Brammertz said Hadzic was expected to be extradited to the court in The Hague "within days" - the last of the 161 suspects indicted by the court to be transferred.



"We can now say that no indicted person has successfully evaded the tribunal's judicial process. This is a precedent of enduring significance," Brammertz said.



Hadzic lived openly in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad until July 2004, when The Hague sent an indictment and arrest warrant to Belgrade. He fled immediately, tipped off by nationalist hardliners in Serbia's security services.



His escape was kept a secret for days, while relatives said he was at home and police denied having orders to arrest him. The Hague later made public surveillance pictures showing him leaving his house with a bag.



Hadzic, an ex-warehouse foreman who rose to prominence as a Serb nationalist activist in early 1990s, also gained notoriety for his involvement in murky deals including illegal exports of oak, stolen cars, wine and crude oil from a well under Serb control.



He was frequently seen in the company of Zeljko "Arkan" Raznatovic, a paramilitary leader and then head of Belgrade's underworld.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London