Last war crimes suspect Goran Hadzic before UN court

25th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic will for the first time face a UN war crimes tribunal judge Monday as the court's last wanted fugitive, arrested after seven years on the run.

Hadzic, 52, who is wanted for his role in the 1991-95 Croatian war, will appear before South Korean Judge O-Gon Kwon at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague at 1400 GMT.

The tribunal's prosecution has charged the one-time leader of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina during the early 1990s with 14 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes including the extermination, murder and willful killing of hundreds of Croat and non-Serb civilians.

Most notably, he is wanted for his role in the massacre by Croatian Serb troops of some 260 Croats and other non-Serbs taken from a hospital in Vukovar after it fell to Serbian troops in November 1991 following a three-month siege.

Hadzic, a former warehouse employee, is also charged with persecution which included the deportation or forcible transfer of tens of thousands of Croat and other non-Serb civilians, including 20,000 inhabitants of the town of Vukovar.

At his first appearance Hadzic will be asked to identify himself and his rights will be read.

The judge, an acting ICTY president, will read a summary of the 14 counts of crimes against him.

Arrested in northern Serbia on Wednesday and transferred to the ICTY's UN detention unit in The Hague on Friday, Hadzic will then be asked to plead guilty or not on each of the counts.

He will however, be able to ask for a 30-day extension before having to answer again to the same question. If he fails after 30 days to enter a plea, a "not guilty" plea will be entered on his behalf.

Should Hadzic plead guilty, no trial will take place and he will be sentenced.

It could however still take months for the trial to start.

Wanted since 2004, Hadzic was the last fugitive of the 161 persons indicted by the tribunal.

His arrest came less than two months after Serbian authorities finally captured wartime Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, the court's most wanted man.

© 2011 AFP

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