Serbia's last remaining war crimes suspect held after seven years on run

Goran Hadzic's arrest paves way for his country's entry to the EU

Serbia arrested its one remaining war crimes suspect yesterday, drawing a line under the civil war that ravaged the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and improving Belgrade's chances of achieving its cherished ambition of joining the European Union.

Goran Hadzic had been on the run since a warrant for his arrest was issued seven years ago. He has already been questioned about his role in human rights atrocities in Croatia between 1991 and 1995, in particular the massacre of almost 300 Croat prisoners of war at the Ovcara farm near the town of Vukovar in November 1991.

The arrest of war crimes suspects has been a pre-condition to Serbia's entry to the EU and the Belgrade government has been criticised for its inertia in rounding up suspects. However, under Serbia's pro-Western President, Boris Tadic, and after repeated ultimatums from the EU, the prime suspects have finally been rounded up.

Mr Hadzic, 53, who was arrested in Serbia's mountainous north, is also accused of killing more than 50 Croats after ordering them to walk through mine fields to make them safe for Serbian paramilitaries. Other charges include the torture, deportation and forcible transfer of Croats and other non-Serbs from the territories under his control, mostly in eastern Croatia.

Mr Hadzic headed the self-proclaimed, breakaway "Serb republic of Krajina", which carved out a third of Croatian territory when the country moved for independence from Belgrade. The enclave had the support of Slobodan Milosevic, who was then the Serbian President and who died of a heart attack during his trial for crimes committed during the Balkan wars.

The Serbian war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, confirmed the arrest of Mr Hadzic at a press conference, saying he was "unrecognisable, armed, but offered no resistance".

He was seized in the village of Krusedol, about 60km north-west of Belgrade, as he met men delivering money for him. Mr Vukcevic said Mr Hadzic had been struggling financially and had tried to sell a painting by Amedeo Modigliani worth millions of euros. "That's when we realised he had run out of funds," Mr Vukcevic said.

President Tadic announced the arrest live on national television, stating that Serbia had "concluded its most difficult chapter in the co-operation with the [international war crimes] Hague Tribunal". It is now expected that Mr Hadzic, like Ratko Mladic earlier this year, will be extradited to The Hague, where he will face the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

In a statement, Judge O-Gon Kwon, the tribunal's acting president, said: "Hadzic's arrest marks another milestone in the tribunal's history and brings this institution closer to the successful completion of its mandate."

In the past, Mr Hadzic had narrowly escaped arrest, apparently after tip-offs from within the Serbian security authorities. Serbia's post-war authorities have for years been accused of not doing enough to hunt down war crimes suspects. President Tadic said yesterday: "We have done this for the sake of citizens of Serbia, we have done this for the sake of the victims among other nations, we have done this for the sake of reconciliation... Without reconciliation, there is no future for this region."

Asked if this boosts the EU membership hopes, the President said he was "waiting to see what the EU has to say".

The EU immediately welcomed the arrest and greeted "the determination and commitment" of Mr Tadic's government. "This is a further important step for Serbia in realising its European perspective and equally crucial for international justice," a statement from the EU leadership said.

The key former fugitives

Slobodan Milosevic The former Serbian president was put on trial at The Hague in 2002 for genocide and crimes against humanity. He died in 2006 before a verdict had been reached.

Radovan Karadzic After almost 13 years on the run, the former Bosnian-Serb leader was arrested in July 2008 and charged with orchestrating the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 among other atrocities. His trial at The Hague continues.

Ratko Mladic Karadzic's army chief was arrested in May after 16 years on the run, and is on trial at The Hague facing charges over the Srebrenica massacre.

Goran Hadzic The last of the key fugitives was arrested yesterday. The former president of the self-proclaimed Serb republic of Krajina disappeared shortly after he was indicted for war crimes in 2004.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all