Serbian authorities have arrested the last remaining fugitive wanted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Goran Hadzic is charged with 14 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes for his leading role in the ethnic cleansing of Croats and other non-Serbs from parts of Croatia in the early years of the Balkans war.
Hadzic has been a fugitive from justice for the past seven years.
In announcing his arrest Wednesday morning near the Hadzic family home in a mountainous region north of Belgrade, Serbian President Boris Tadic explained why it seemed to take so long.
"If I have to remind yourself about other cases, internationally very well known and recognized, for example, the case about Osama bin Laden," sad Tadic. "Work on that issue was very long and very hard, almost one decade. At the end of the day, that was fruitful and very efficient. That is the same situation. We’ve been working very hard; we’ve been working systematically. At the end of the day, we’re finished."
Prosecutors in The Hague have charged Hadzic with extermination, persecution, murder and the deportation of tens of thousands of non-Serbs for his role as leader of the Bosnian Serbs who sought to breakaway from Croatia between 1991-1992.
They created their own Serb Republics, including one enclave in Krajina, where Hadzic served as president. He is also charged in connection with the 1991 massacres at Vukovar, when some 250 people were taken from the hospital of the heavily besieged Croatian city and murdered in one of the earliest massacres of the war.
Goran Hadzic is the last of the fugitives wanted by The Hague War Crimes Tribunal.
While regional and national courts are still pursuing lesser war crimes cases in connection with the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia, those believed to be most responsible are now in the custody of the Tribunal.
They include former military commander of the Bosnian Serbs, Ratko Mladic, who was arrested on genocide charges in May. The arrests are seen as crucial for Serbia’s bid to join the European Union.
President Tadic said arresting Hadzic was Serbia’s moral and legal responsibility and not the result of EU pressure. Either way, his transfer to The Hague in the coming days removes one of the last roadblocks on Serbia’s long road to European Union membership.