Serbian authorities have arrested Goran Hadzic, the last remaining fugitive sought by the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Hadzic, 52, was the leader of Croatia’s rebel Serbs during the country’s 1991-1995 war. He has been indicted for 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2004 and had been on the run ever since.
The arrest, first reported by local media, has been confirmed by President Boris Tadic during a news conference. He said the Hadzic was hiding in the Serbian mountainous region which borders Croatia on Wednesday morning.
Hadzic has been already delivered to Belgrade, where he is appearing before a military tribunal.
The EU and NATO said they welcomed Hadzic’s arrest and expect his swift handing over to the Hague Tribunal.
Goran Hadzic’s arrest comes less than two months after the capture of another high-profile war crime suspect, Ratko Mladic. It apparently clears Belgrade from the blame that in fails to do enough to find alleged criminals of the 1990s Balkan wars. This was one of the key barriers to consideration of Serbia’s possible membership of the European Union.
Aleksandar Pavic, a political analyst based in Belgrade, says opposition in Serbia believes the arrest has been timed for political gain.
“Opposition here believes that it’s all part of the election campaign. [The] parliamentary election is due here early next year. Many in the opposition think this is all to get some points from the EU. The current government is desperate to get the candidacy and the negotiations on the EU accession,” he explained.
Some experts say if Belgrade had the choice of whether to arrest Radic and Hadzic or to let them live in hiding, its opting for the former may have been a mistake, strategically-speaking.
“There was a break of law and order [in Yugoslav Croatia] and a civil war, and the Hague Tribunal has been trying to turn this into a joint criminal enterprise planned by Serbia to conquer parts of Croatia. This accusation, in my view, is complete nonsense. So by co-operating with The Hague on it, Belgrade is in a sense only lending credence to this very biased view of the breakup of Yugoslavia,” John Laughland, director of the Paris-based Institute of Democracy and Co-operation told RT.