Serb paramilitary chief faces Croatia war crimes trial

Dragan Vasiljkovic -- or 'Captain Dragan' -- was handed over by Canberra after almost a decade-long legal battle, becoming the first suspected war criminal to be extradited by Australia.

Serb paramilitary chief faces Croatia war crimes trial

World Bulletin / News Desk

A former Serb paramilitary commander, extradited from Australia last year, will go on trial in Croatia on Tuesday charged with the torture and murder of civilians and prisoners of war in the 1990s.

The 61-year-old was indicted in January for the detention and torture of Croatian civilians and police in the ethnic Serb rebel stronghold of Knin at the start of the country's 1990s independence war.

As commander of a Serb paramilitary unit, he did "nothing to prevent and punish such crimes" that occurred in 1991, and personally took part in them, according to the prosecutors.

Vasiljkovic was also charged with ordering the torture and killing of two detained Croatian soldiers in the village of Bruska, near Benkovac, in the country's south in 1993.

According to the prosecutors, he orchestrated a deadly attack in 1991 on the central town of Glina and the surrounding region in which a civilian and a German reporter were killed while the local population had to flee their homes.

The trial, to be held under heavy security measures, is to open before a tribunal in the central coastal town of Split. More than 50 witnesses are expected to be questioned.

At a preliminary hearing held in July, Vasiljkovic pleaded not guilty.

His extradition to Croatia in July 2015 was hailed by the victims and their families.

Velibor Bracic, a former Croatian soldier detained by Serb paramilitaries at Knin for nearly three months in 1991, recalled how Vasiljkovic personally beat him while showing his subordinates how to do it properly.

"He said: 'If you beat him then you should do it like this' and then he kicked me in face," Bracic told Nova TV upon the suspect's extradition.

He described his detention as "24 hours of mistreatment each day... beatings with rifle butts, hands."

Vasiljkovic was first arrested in Australia in 2006 and Croatia has consistently requested his extradition.

In Australia, the Belgrade-born suspect worked as a golf instructor under the name Daniel Snedden.

He denied committing war crimes but told media he had trained recruits, killed people in combat and interrogated enemy troops.

Croatia's proclamation of independence from the former Yugoslavia sparked the 1991-1995 war with Belgrade-backed rebel Serbs. The conflict claimed some 20,000 lives. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Haziran 2022, 17:09