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
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower