Fri, Apr 02, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Ex-Serb commander missing after court ruling in Australia

REUTERS , CANBERRA

A former Serb commander accused of war crimes in the Balkans was being hunted by Australian police yesterday after disappearing in the wake of a court ruling that he could be extradited to Croatia.

Dragan Vasiljkovic, 55, an Australian who also has Serbian citizenship, lost a four-year legal battle on Tuesday when Australia’s High Court approved his extradition and reinstated a 2006 warrant for his arrest.

Croatia holds Vasiljkovic, whose Australian name is Daniel Snedden, responsible for torturing and killing Croat soldiers and civilians, as well as a foreign journalist, when he commanded a Serb paramilitary unit during Croatia’s 1991-1995 independence war.

PRISON

“Mr Snedden is now required to be committed to prison to await the Minister for Home Affairs’ final determination whether or not to surrender him to Croatia to face prosecution for war crimes offences,” a spokeswoman for Australia’s Attorney-General Robert McClelland said.

Vasiljkovic, known as “Captain Dragan” during the war in Croatia, won an earlier appeal against extradition when a lower court found he had grounds for believing he could be punished or imprisoned because of his nationality or political opinions.

Last week, the presidents of Croatia and Serbia promised a new era in relations, effectively resuming ties after a year of silent hostility.

ATROCITY

On Wednesday, Serbia’s parliament apologized for the 1995 killing of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two.

Police were yesterday searching Vasiljkovic’s last known residence in the town of Boambee, north of Sydney. Vasiljkovic did not attend the court and police had no power to arrest him until after the High Court ruling.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor and McClelland will have the last say on whether Vasiljkovic will be extradited to Croatia.

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