Death Prevents Justice Once Again For Croat Victims Of Serb War Crimes

Serb war criminal Goran Hadzic 2015/2016

Serb war criminal Goran Hadzic


Croatian Serb rebel leader Goran Hadzic, 58, former leader of the 1990’s self-proclaimed Serbian Republic of Krajina (part of Croatian territory occupied, ethnically cleansed of Croats and other non-Serbs, terrorised and devastated) who was tried by the UN war crimes court ICTY – International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) over his role in war crimes committed by Serb aggressor in the 1991-1995 war in Croatia, has died on Tuesday 12 July 2016 in a clinical centre in Vojvodina part of Serbia.


Hadzic wanted to create a Serb-dominated state after the splintering of the former Yugoslavia in 1991 following the collapse of communism; after Croatia announced and proceeded with the majority (94%) of its people’s wish to create an independent state, secede from communism and develop a democracy.


Hadzic was charged by ICTY prosecutor with 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The accusations include the murder/massacres of civilians who were taken from Vukovar hospital in 1991 in one of the conflict’s darkest episodes, forced deportation (ethnic cleansing by way of murder, unlawful jailing, beatings, deportations and forcible transfers) of at least 20,000 Croats and other non-Serbs from that area. He was also charged with responsibility for the massacre of Croat civilians who were forced to walk into a minefield in the Croatian town of Lovas in October 1991, one of the first crimes of the long, bloody conflict. He spent seven years on the run in Serbia from UN prosecutors after being tipped off about arrest.

Goran Hadzic 1991 Serb rebel and war criminal

Goran Hadzic 1991
Serb rebel and war criminal

Prosecutors finished presenting their case against Hadzic in November 2013 and Hadzic had just started his defense when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. In April 2015 ICTY ordered an indefinite halt to the trial as he battled the advanced stages of terminal brain cancer.

Goran Hadzic was born on 7 September in Vinkovci area, Croatia. Before the 1990’s war he worked as a store man while his political involvement began in the nineties with the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), where he was president of its Municipal branch of Vukovar, a member of the Central Committee in Knin and president of the Regional Board for Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia. In January 1991 Hadzic was elected president of the Serbian National Council in Croatia, in August of the same year he was elected Prime Minister of the Serb rebel self-proclaimed Serbian District of Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia while his political engagement that had its sight on carving Croatian territory for Serbs rose to  President of the Republic of Serbian Krajina in February 1992 after the convicted war criminal Milan Babic lost the position. Losing at December 1993 elections Hadzic went out of politics for a while.


Vukovar, Croatia 1991 - brutally devastated from Serb aggression

Vukovar, Croatia 1991 – brutally devastated from Serb aggression

Hadzic was the first on the list of about 150 war crimes Serb suspects to be excluded from the 1997 Croatian law which provided for amnesty against criminal charges for quite a number of Serb nationals suspected of committing crimes in Croatia during the war. Croatian authorities were adamant Hadzic was to face trial for war crimes; sadly the said amnesty provided many Serb war criminals (murderers, rapists, concentration camp torturers…) with freedom and no requirement to carry any responsibility for their crimes. Having fled to Serbia Hadzic was nevertheless indicted on war crimes in Croatia. In fact Croatia excluded from a war crimes amnesty for Serbs in the rebel enclave of Eastern Slavonia more than 800 people, including eminent retired and current Yugoslav army officers.  At Western insistence, the Croatian parliament had pardoned Serbs who were in the eastern region during or after a 1991 revolt against Croatia’s move to independence from the Serbian-dominated federal Yugoslavia. The amnesty, intended to reassure local Serbs in advance of Eastern Slavonia’s U.N.-supervised transfer back to Croatian authority by 1997, does not cover Serbs suspected of war crimes as defined by international law.


Although he fled to Serbia to evade justice, the Osijek County Court in 1999 sentenced Hadzic to eight years in prison, among other things, for incitement to crime, murder, destruction of the Catholic Church and the mining of non-Serb houses in Tenja, near Osijek. The Sibenik County Court had also sentenced him in 1995 to 20 years imprisonment for excessive shelling of town of Sibenik area. Enjoying the safety of Serbia, Hadzic, of course, served no time in Croatian prisons

ICTY in The Hague published its indictment against Hadzic in July 2004 on charges referred to above. Soon after hearing of the indictment he abandoned his house in Novi Sad, Vojvodina Serbia and hid as fugitive in Serbia for seven years. In October 2007 Serbia publicised a reward for information leading to the capturing of war criminal fugitives including Hadzic and he was finally arrested in Serbia July 2011 and transported to the Hague.

Ethnic cleansing of Croatians of Vukovar 1991 Photo:

Ethnic cleansing of Croatians of Vukovar 1991 Photo:


Some people out there might say that although Hadzic’s death has prevented justice from being done in his case, the crimes he was accused of do not and will not remain unpunished, because there are other Serb leaders and war criminals charged with and convicted of them. That is absolutely no consolation for victims of his crimes. However, the fact that  he was convicted by Croatian courts in absentia brings at least small consolations, and so his repugnant plea of innocence at the Hague and unfinished defence due to his death cannot bear the same weight as dying before criminal trial completion without any convictions from anywhere. Hadzic was guilty of war crimes, was found to be guilty and died as a major war criminal.

It is a terrible thing that hundreds of Croats who were targets of Hadzic’s and his associates’ war crimes are still to this day on the Missing Persons list – neither Serbia nor its war criminals have felt the decency to reveal the resting place of their remains.  It is a terrible thing to watch Serbia make progress with EU membership negotiations without being required to reveal facts and details of the fates of the missing persons from its 1990’s war of aggression against Croatia. It is a terrible thing watching Croatia’s authorities weaken their stand on this requirement from Serbia and so contribute to the painful possibility of the Croatian missing persons’ fate remaining a secret of Serbia. This smells of the late-1990’s deal of amnesty to Serb criminals and it the smell is distressing. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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