Just two months after the arrest of Bosnian Serbian military general Ratko Mladic, the last remaining Serbian fugitive wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague in connection to the Croatian genocide has been arrested after seven years on the run.
Goran Hadzic was detained on Wednesday north of Belgrade near his family home at Fruska Gora mountain, said Serbian President Boris Tadic in a national address, the New York Times reported.
Hadzic was wanted for atrocities committed in the 1991-1995 war in Croatia. He was the leader of Croatian Serb separatist forces and is believed to have been involved in “ethnic cleansing that led to the killings of hundreds of Croats, including women and the elderly, the deportation of tens of thousands and the destruction of homes.”
Mr Hadzic, indicted in 2004, faces 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including persecution, extermination, torture, deportation and wanton destruction for his involvement in atrocities committed by Serb troops in Croatia.
He is held responsible for the massacre of almost 300 men in Vukovar in 1991 by Croatian Serb troops and for the deportation of 20,000 people from the town after it was captured.
President Tadic insisted that Serbian investigators had been “working very hard in the past three years” to capture Mr Hadzic.
The capture of Hadzic is the final hurdle for Serbia to join the European Union, which has been a steadfast goal of President Tadic’s foreign policy.
Tadic said that pressure from the UN in Brussels has not driven his country’s efforts to capture the remaining fugitives over the past few years, but now he hopes the moves will earn his country candidate status for the EU and begin accession talks.
“Following the capture of Ratko Mladic, this arrest sends a positive signal to the European Union and to Serbia’s neighbours, but most of all on the rule of law in Serbia itself. The Serbian nation is in the process of confronting the past and turning the page to a better European future,” said EU leaders in a statement.
This marks a turning point for a country hoping to move on from the atrocities committed in its name.