Trial of ex-Serb paramilitary leader to start in Croatia Tuesday

Former rebel Serb leader Dragan Vasiljkovic, also known as Captain Dragan, who is charged with war crimes against POWs and civilians in southern and central Croatia in the early 1990s, will appear in the dock at Split County Court on Tuesday.

The trial against Captain Dragan, who used to be the commander of a special purpose unit within Serb paramilitary forces, will start more than two decades after the commission of war crimes.

Vasiljkovic, who was born in Belgrade and who has the citizenship of Australia, which extradited him to Croatia in July 2015, is charged with violating the Geneva Conventions by torturing and killing Croatian prisoners of war in a prison in Knin in June and July 1991 and in Bruska near Benkovac in February 1993.

He is also indicted for having planned in July 1991 in Glina, in agreement with the commander of a Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) tank unit, an attack on the police station in Glina, its suburb of Jukinac and the villages of Gornji Vidusevac and Donji Vidusevac. The prosecution alleges that during the attack civilian properties were damaged or destroyed, the local population was forced to flee their homes, their property was plundered and civilians were killed and wounded, including a foreign reporter.

Vasiljkovic denies all the charges. After taking part in the Serb rebellion in Croatia, he returned to Australia where he lived under the name Daniel Snedden in Perth and worked as a golf instructor. Vasiljkovic managed to delay his extradition in 2013 after an Australian judge granted an appeal in which he claimed that he had an unjust process in Australia due to procedural errors. The Australian Supreme Court, however, rejected the appeal.

The Split County Court is expected to question 55 witnesses for the prosecution, and the defence has not yet named its witnesses.

Attending the trial will be representatives of Serbia and Australia given that the indictee has their citizenship.

The defence team expects Vasiljkovic to be released from custody since has already been detained for 10 years in extradition prison in Australia. For that purpose, the defence team has reported this case to the United Nations' Human Rights Council, asking the Council to decide on a temporary measure regulating Vailjkovic's release during the trial.

The Split County Court previously turned down his request to be released on HRK 5 million bail.

Last update: Mon, 19/09/2016 - 14:21

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