Croatia: War Crimes Trial Against Serb Dragan Vasiljkovic Finally Commences

DRagan Vasiljkovic at court Split, Croatia 20 September 2016 Photo:Hamze Media

Dragan Vasiljkovic at court
Split, Croatia
20 September 2016
Photo:Hanze Media


Serb former paramilitary commander Dragan Vasiljkovic (aka Captain Dragan, Daniel Snedden) went on trial in Croatia on Tuesday 20 September 2016 accused of torturing and killing soldiers and civilians during the 1991-95 war of Serb aggression against Croatia. Prosecution alleges that Vasiljkovic, 61, violated the Geneva Conventions while in charge of a Serb paramilitary unit known as the Red Berets by torturing and murdering civilians, prisoner Croatian soldiers and police in the rebel Serb stronghold of Knin in summer 1991 and Bruska near the town of Benkovac in 1993. The charges carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence in Croatia.


The 61-year-old was indicted in January 2016 for the detention and torture of Croatian civilians and police in the ethnic Serb rebel stronghold of Knin (the so-called self-proclaimed Serbian Republic of Krajina) at the start of Croatia’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.


Prosecutors claim 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 Croat and other non-Serb population were forced to flee their homes.


The trial in the city of Split will be held under heavy security measures and so far the prosecution has put forward 55 of its witnesses and defence is still to put forward its list of witnesses. Hence, its likely that the trial will last quite a while.

Dragan Vasiljkovic at war crimes trial Split, Croatia 20 SEptember 2016 Photo: Hamze Media

Dragan Vasiljkovic
at war crimes trial
Split, Croatia
20 SEptember 2016
Photo: Hanze Media

Vasiljkovic was extradited last year (2015) after Croatian authorities sought an arrest warrant for the fugitive. Extradition process from Australia took ten years, much of which period Vasiljkovic spent in custody awaiting outcomes from and exhaustion of all his rights under the Australian laws. Vasiljkovic has dual Serbian and Australian citizenship, told the court in the Adriatic city of Split that he “feels absolutely no guilt”. He is also accused of drawing up plans to attack police stations.


It’s believed to be the first time an Australian citizen has faced court for war crimes and this had ignited a bitter debate about whether he is a national hero (in Serbia) or depraved criminal. Vasiljkovic was born in Belgrade, Serbia and moved to Melbourne aged 14 with his family and was granted Australian citizenship in 1975 according to court documents. He returned to Serbia during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. When Croatia declared independence in 1991 Vasiljkovic trained Serbs to lead operations against the Croats. A Bosnian woman, Jamila Subasic, has accused him of rape and claims he abused her in front of other men. He denies being present at the hotel where it is alleged to have taken place.


Velibor Bracic

A former Croatian prisoner of war, Velibor Bracic, 41, travelled 2009 from Croatia to testify in the NSW Supreme Court in a defamation case brought by Dragan Vasiljkovic against Nationwide News, publisher of The Australian newspaper, had told the court that an Australian citizen accused by Croatia of war crimes (Dragan Vasiljkovic) kicked him in the head in a fortress prison in the early 1990s. 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.”
On one occasion, the guards allegedly brought in a baby bear and the inmates were forced to kiss the bear’s backside.
Other times, guns were put in their mouths, while a guard, with his hand on the trigger, would ask: “Do you want us to kill you?” Mr Bracic said. The inmates were also taken outside for mock executions.
The inmates were later transferred to the abandoned Knin hospital. In addition to beatings, the prisoners were allegedly given electric shocks and sexually assaulted.

Anne McElvoy Photo: Twitter

Anne McElvoy
Photo: Twitter

British newspaper executive Anne McElvoy, who was a war correspondent for The Times in 1991, told the Sydney court in 2009 via videolink she had asked a Serb paramilitary commander in Knin, who had said he was Captain Dragan, about his views on targeting civilian buildings.
“He said: ‘Nobody needs to be armed since I got here. I’m not here to kill people, just neutralise the enemy. When the Croatian side uses hospitals or police stations in their villages as fortified positions, I’m sorry, I just have to massacre them.’ ”


Slobodna Dalmacija news portal from Split reports that entering the court in the city of Split in Croatia 20th September 2016 Vasiljkovic said that he was defending Yugoslavia, that he had the feeling it was pulling away from him and that he is not an aggressor. In that context he mentioned that he feels the Adriatic Sea is his.
Well, nothing new there – Serbia and Serbs who attacked Croatia all thought the same and many still do. Hence, Croatia needs vigilance for its own safety for the Serb hunger for Croatian lands is quite vicious.



There is still no limit as to how far Vasiljkovic will go to insult Croatians. At the entry to the court in Split on Tuesday he reportedly also said that many Australian Croats keep the picture of General Ante Gotovina (Croatian General who led the military operation Storm in August 1995 that liberated Knin and occupied Croatian territory of Krajina from Serb occupation) but that they also keep his picture.


Dragan Vasiljkovic war crimes trial Split, Croatia 20 September 2016 Photo: Hamze Media

Dragan Vasiljkovic
war crimes trial
Split, Croatia
20 September 2016
Photo: Hanze Media

Mid-September 2016 Vasiljkovic had sent a complaint to the UN claiming he was illegally detained in Australia for years and unlawfully extradited to Croatia. In his statement to the UN he alleged that he had suffered from the “violation of the right to liberty and security of a person, as well as the excessive length of the investigative detention”. He urges the UN Human Rights Committee to tell Croatia that he should be freed from custody and allowed to mount his defence while on bail. His lawyers are now awaiting a positive result from the UN, i.e. that Vasiljkovic will receive bail and be able to defend himself from outside prison. The problem with that is that he is a huge flight risk and I certainly hope that the UN Human Rights Committee will think of human rights his alleged victims had and that is a right to justice. If he gets bail he is likely to flee into Serbia or somewhere like that, which could take another ten years to get him back to trial in Croatia. As I see it, Vasiljkovic has had his ten years of evading justice and it’s now the victims’ turn to get justice. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


Accused War Criminal Fails Last Ditch Effort To Avoid Extradition To Croatia


DRagan Vasiljkovic Captain DRagan Daniel Snedden

Serb national and Australian citizen (who migrated to Australia at the age of 14) Dragan Vasiljkovic, 60, also known as Captain Dragan, who has lived in Australia under the name of Daniel Snedden, is a man wanted by Croatia on charges of war crimes committed during the 1990’s war. On Friday 15 May 2015 Dragan Vasiljkovic had finally, after close to  a decade of utilising every legal avenue available to him, run out of all legal options to fight extradition to Croatia – the High Court of Australia denied Vasiljkovic the leave to appeal the orders for extradition that were confirmed last year.
In denying him a High Court appeal on Friday May 15, Justice Kenneth Hayne of High Court of Australia Melbourne Registry, said an appeal “would not enjoy sufficient chance of success“.


Vasiljkovic’s lawyers say his final hope now is a change of heart by the Australian government. There’s not much chance of that for the government had made decisions to extradite Vasiljkovic to Croatia before and the ABC news reports that the Australian government had issued a statement this week indicating it will be following through with extradition.


Vasiljkovic, who was arrested by Australian police in Sydney in January 2006, was charged with war crimes, including commanding troops that tortured and killed prisoners of war, commanding an assault on the Croatian town of Glina which saw civilians killed, and breaching the Geneva Convention during an assault northeast of Benkovac when civil buildings were damaged and ruined, Croatians were forced to leave their homes, their property robbed and civilians (among them was a foreign journalist) were wounded and killed; led a paramilitary unit that terrorised the local Croatian population and is alleged to have tortured prisoners of war in a medieval fortress near the town of Knin…


Denying the allegations against him, he had been fighting extradition while in prison in Australia, pending the outcomes of extradition to Croatia legal battles, saying that he will not be protected under the Geneva Convention if brought before a Croatian court; that he would not have a fair trial in Croatia.
Vasiljkovic’s Australian lawyers will reportedly be seeking that if extradited (which is a certainty as far as I can see) years spent in prison in Australia be counted in any sentencing discount in Croatia and that he will be safe if deported to stand trial in the capital city of Zagreb.
One thing he can count on is safety and fair trial for it is in the interest of his alleged victims that justice is done and Croatian judiciary is well aware of that. Furthermore, Croatian courts have had ample opportunities to deliver just verdicts and conduct fair trials in numbers of similar cases over the past decade or so.



It’s been reported that Vasiljkovic’s criminal rampage did not stop in Croatia, against Croats – he had Bosniaks in his sights too. In evidence, in 2009, before a defamation case Vasiljkovic (Snedden) had launched against The Australian newspaper (and lost the case), a Bosnian woman accused him of repeatedly raping her in Zvornik (close to Srebrenica), northern Bosnia, in 1992. The woman, who travelled to Sydney in April 2009 to testify in the NSW Supreme Court along with several Croatian men allegedly imprisoned and tortured by Vasiljkovic, identified him in court as the ”Captain Dragan” who repeatedly raped her and watched as other soldiers did so also.



In this landmark civil judgment, The Australian newspaper had in 2009 successfully defended the defamation action brought against it by Vasiljkovic – under the name Daniel Snedden – after the publication of an article in 2005 that detailed the horrors he was said to have committed in the former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina) during the so-called Balkans conflict.
Nationwide News, publisher of The Australian newspaper, ran a de facto war crimes hearing in which it proved, on the balance of probabilities, the substantive truth of matters contained in the allegedly defamatory newspaper article.


Judge Megan Latham found December 18, 2009, Nationwide News had proven a raft of allegations made against Vasiljkovic, including that he repeatedly raped a woman in Zvornik, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 1992; that he had admitted committing a massacre in July 1991 to a journalist from London’s The Times; and that he had personally committed the war crime of torture as well as condoning such crimes by troops under his command.

The systematic abuse, humiliation and deprivation visited upon those whom the plaintiff (Vasiljkovic) sought to punish and subdue at the Knin fortress, the old hospital prison and the Sremska Mitrovica prison, was consistent with (his) stated aim to drive out non-Serbs from the Krajina,” Justice Latham found in her judgment.
It was in his reactions to this defamation case and its findings that Graeme Blewitt, the former deputy chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said he was confident a fair trial could be conducted in Croatia given the number of similar cases heard in recent years.
According to The Australian, former war crimes prosecutors welcomed the 2009 defamation case verdict and demanded the Australian government find a way to prosecute Vasiljkovic should his extradition to Croatia not proceed.


But extradition will proceed. We no longer need to fret for justice and keep asking: will he or won’t he face the court to answer to the charges of atrocities in Croatia. Vasiljkovic was a most active paramilitary campaigner for the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina that terrorised, murdered, raped, tortured, ethnically cleansed, and pillaged a large section of Croatia, liberated in August 1995 in Operation Storm. Until a court verdict on alleged war crimes Captain Dragan remains a notorious figure of the 1990’s bloody and criminal attempts at extending the borders for “Greater Serbia” into Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Indicted Serb War Criminal Dragan Vasiljkovic Loses Final Battle Against Extradition To Croatia

Dragan Vasiljkovic aka Captain Dragan aka Daniel Snedden Photo: News Ltd

Dragan Vasiljkovic
aka Captain Dragan
aka Daniel Snedden
Photo: News Ltd


Dragan Vasiljkovic, a Serb with Australian citizenship known as Captain Dragan during his reported murderous rampages in Croatia as part of Serb aggressing in the early 1990’s, and also known by his adopted name in Australia as Daniel Snedden, has spent the last eight years in Australian prisons as he fought legal battles against extradition to Croatia to answer to charges for war crimes against him. On Friday 12 December he lost his final battle not to be extradited to Croatia. The Australian Federal court had rejected his appeal.


Vasiljkovic is wanted in Croatia for war crimes he allegedly committed in the 1990s while serving as a paramilitary commander during the war of the said period.
His latest appeal against his extradition order centred on the legal delays in his case, issues relating to the Geneva Conventions, and questions of procedural fairness.
The 60-year-old, who was born in Belgrade and is an Australian citizen, has denied the allegations of war crimes and has challenged the extradition order since his arrest in Perth, Australia, 2006.

Croatia has charged Captain Dragan for war crimes, torture and killing of prisoners of war, attacks on civilians during 1991 and 1992 in the Republika Srpska Krajina (Serb occupied Croatian territory that was ethnically cleansed of all non-Serbs), and commanding an assault on the village of Glina that resulted in civilian deaths and injuries.
After protracted legal battles challenging the Croatian request, ex Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare approved the extradition in November 2012.
The Supreme Court of NSW ruled on a defamation action and found the former Serbian paramilitary commander had committed the war crimes of torture and rape, and had admitted to a massacre.
A spokeswoman for the Australian Attorney-General’s Department said in a statement to The Weekend Australian (13 & 14 December 2014): “The Full Federal Court today found that Mr Vasiljkovic had been accorded appropriate procedural fairness in the making of the former Minister’s decision to surrender him to Croatia.
The Court also found that the decision was made as soon as reasonably practicable and that the former Minister (Jason Clare) had not erred in exercising his general discretion.
“It is open to Mr Vasiljkovic to seek leave to appeal the decision to the High Court.”

According to SBS News Vasiljkovic’s lawyer said that a High Court challenge could be the next step in his fight against extradition.
Dan Mori, who represented confessed terrorism supporter David Hicks in American military court proceedings, is representing Vasiljkovic.
Mr Mori told SBS on Friday 12 December his main concern was that his client would not be afforded the protections of the Geneva Convention if returned to Croatia.
I’m very concerned about what would happen in Croatia,” Mr Mori said.
There’s some big unanswered questions. Is Croatia going to give him credit for every day he served here in Australia if he is brought back there, and he should be because the Geneva Convention requires it. But Australia has not sought that specialty assurance from Croatia.
Now it’s really time to look at the rationale and look at the decisions and see if there is any viable issues that may or may not support a special leave to the High Court.”
It would seem that even Vasiljkovic’s lawyer believes that there is a case to answer for war crimes; why else would he contemplate upon time Vasiljkovic has already spent in prison and whether Croatia would recognise it under some clause or article of the Geneva Convention!? I would say: now it’s really time for Vasiljkovic to face the charges against him in a Croatian court and stop stalling and obstructing justice for the alleged victims. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

For Further Information Click Link: Documents relating to the extradition of Dragan Vasiljkovic – Daniel Snedden

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