Fugitive Goran Hadzic still in sights of tribunal prosecutors

 

RATKO Mladic – reputedly the Butcher of Bosnia – may have been the trophy catch without whom the work of the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia would always have seemed incomplete, but with his trial in its preliminary stages, prosecutors have one more target in their sights – Goran Hadzic.

With a creditable 160 of its 161 suspects already tried, being tried, or about to be tried by the international court, Hadzic (52) is the only remaining fugitive – and the man chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, hopes to deny the title of “the one who got away”.

That is why the UN Security Council, when it extended the terms of the tribunal’s 17 judges until the end of 2012 just a few days ago, urged the states of the former Yugoslavia, and Serbia in particular, to redouble their efforts to bring Hadzic to justice.

While he may be largely unknown to the western European public, the allegations against pipe-smoking Hadzic – who once described himself ominously as “a messenger for Slobodan Milosevic” – are no less horrific than those against Mladic himself.

An ethnic Serb politician born in Croatia, in the village of Pacetin, he rose through the ranks of the Serbian Democratic Party during the 1980s, until in 1992 he was named president of the so-called Republic of Serbian Krajina.

He was indicted on 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2004 for his alleged involvement in the forcible removal and murder of thousands of civilians from the republic of Croatia between 1991 and 1993.

The indictment specifically refers to the massacre in the Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991 – in which some 250 people from Vukovar hospital, many of them patients and mostly Croats, were systematically slaughtered in one of the first recorded atrocities of the war.

He is also wanted in connection with at least three other massacres – at Dalj, Erdut and Lovas.

Hadzic features high on Interpol’s most wanted list. The US government’s Awards for Justice Programme is offering $5 million (€3.4 million) for information leading to his arrest, Serbia itself is offering $1.4 million for his capture. There is pressure on his family, who have been banned from entering the EU, yet the former warehouseman remains remarkably elusive.

Much to the frustration of the Hague tribunal, Hadzic disappeared from his home in Novi Sad in Serbia not long before he was due to be arrested.

At one point he was reported to have been hiding in a Serbian Orthodox monastery – but he has also been reported seen as far afield as Belarus.

The main hope for prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, is that with Mladic in captivity in The Hague, the arrest of Hadzic may now be regarded by the Serbian government as among the final hurdles to long-awaited membership of the European Union.