[JURIST] Serbian authorities on Wednesday arrested [ICTY press release] Goran Hadzic [ICTY backgrounder], the last fugitive of the original 161 sought for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. Serbian President Boris Tadic announced the arrest [B92 report] through a press conference [summary video; full video, in Bosnian], stating that Serbia has fulfilled its obligations to The Hague and was not harboring Hadzic at any time. The Special Court in Belgrade deemed Hadzic fit for extradition immediately after the arrest on Wednesday and he could be deported to The Hague within the week [B92 reports]. ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz [official profile], reacting to the arrest, praised the triumph of international law, but emphasized the need to fully prosecute the indicted [press release]:
As we pause to reflect on the significance of Hadzic’s arrest for the Tribunal, we are mindful that the Tribunal is part of a much broader process for establishing accountability for atrocities committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. The victims of thousands of other crimes are still waiting for justice. The prosecution of war crimes in national proceedings remains a critical challenge for the region and its people. The Office of the Prosecutor will continue to use its best efforts to assist the fight against impunity in the former Yugoslavia, by providing national prosecutors with information, evidence and expertise. The international community also has a key role to play in ensuring that national prosecutions can successfully take over the Tribunal’s work in establishing accountability for the atrocities committed. With Hadzic’s arrest we take solace in the knowledge that the Tribunal can now complete its work. But to ensure full accountability for the atrocities committed during the war in the former Yugoslavia, we must also redouble our commitment to supporting the remaining national prosecutions.
Completion of the ICTY is considered the final step before Serbia’s accession to the European Union (EU) [official website]. Representatives of the EU released a statement praising Serbia for the arrest [press release], but noted: “Full cooperation with the ICTY continues to be essential on Serbia’s way towards the European Union.” Reportedly, full recognition of Kosovo [Bloomberg report] also remains a bar for Serbia to reach before accession. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh-Rasmussen also welcomed the arrest [press release].
Hadzic was a key player in the Bosnian Civil War [JURIST news archive] and has been at large for approximately seven years. Hadzic’s official charges [case information sheet, PDF] are: persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds; extermination; murder; torture; inhumane acts; deportation and forcible transfer; cruel treatment; wanton destruction of villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity; destruction or willful damage done to institutions dedicated to education and religion; and plunder of public or private property. Hadzic’s indictment contends that, in his role as president of the Serbian nationalist forces during the war, he attempted to permanently and forcibly remove a majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from the disputed territory. He is accused of murdering or ordering the murders of hundreds of non-Serb citizens, including children and the elderly. Further, he allegedly displaced more than 20,000 non-Serb civilians. Hadzic was found near the small Serbian village of Krusedol [B92 report], living under a false name. Although he was armed, he did not resist arrest. He was discovered after attempting to sell a painting by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, due to running out of money to facilitate his hiding. Hadzic was also reportedly harbored by members of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) [official website]. Hadzic was the final remaining war criminal at large from the Bosnian Civil War, along with Ratko Mladic [JURIST news archive], who was arrested in May [JURIST report].