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
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz