A Croatian court on Wednesday approved the extradition of a communist-era intelligence chief who is wanted in Germany for the killing of a Yugoslav dissident in the 1980s. Former intelligence chief Josip Perkovic was arrested [Reuters report] on January 1 as Croatia acted to comply with EU extradition law. Perkovic, who worked for the Yugoslav federal secret service (UBDA), helped set up Croatia's national intelligence agency when it seceded from Belgrade in 1991 and held senior security posts throughout the 1990s. Perkovic is wanted in Germany in connection with the 1983 murder of a Yugoslav dissident in Bavaria. Before joining the EU in July, the government of Croatia changed its laws to prevent the extradition of suspects in crimes committed before 2002, to protect veterans from the Croatian War for Independence [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. However, in August, when the European Commission warned that the country could face legal action [JURIST report] for not complying with EU extradition standards, the government removed the time restriction. Perkovic denies any wrongdoing and is expected to appeal to the country's supreme court.
Croatia has previously been criticized by groups such as Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] for the slow pace of war crimes investigations. AI noted [report, PDF] that Croatian courts have mostly focused on crimes allegedly committed by ethnic Serbs even though Croats have also been accused of ethnic-based war crimes. Amidst pressure to the tackle this issue of corruption, the push to join the EU was a primary focus [JURIST op-eds] of the nation's rulers for years. Last January the Croatian people voted in favor of joining the EU, a month after the government signed a treaty [JURIST reports] to finalize its EU accession. The EU gave final approval [JURIST report] for Croatian membership in 2011 after six years of negotiations. The EU had previously suspended accession talks [JURIST report] in 2005 when it felt Croatia was not cooperating fully with International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia investigations into war crimes against its former military officers.