Hadzic stars in last act at Yugoslav tribunal

24 September 2014 by Sandra Milic, The Hague (The Netherlands)

For more than a month, former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic has tried to convince judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia that he had no actual clout during the war in Croatia and his fiery media appearances during the 1991-1995 conflict were just for show. The last ICTY fugitive to be caught in 2011, Hadzic was prime minister of the Serbian Autonomous Region of Eastern Slavonia and later president of the Republic of the Serbian Krajina.

ICTY 'Wanted' posters from 2000 and 2011 after Hadzic's arrest
Image caption: 
ICTY 'Wanted' posters from 2000 and 2011 after Hadzic's arrest (Flickr/ICTY)

On 3 July, he took the stand in his own defence against charges that he was responsible for persecutions, torture and murder of non-Serbs in the Serb-held Krajina region in Croatia from 1991 to 1993. The defence endeavoured to persuade judges that Hadzic did not participate in a joint criminal enterprise aiming to forcibly and permanently remove non-Serbs from large parts of Croatia. His lawyers tried to shift the blame for the crimes onto the Serb-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). According to the defence, the army had the de facto power over the units on the ground, including paramilitaries led by Vojislav Seselj.

“I just exaggerated things” 

Hadzic was the first witness to take the stand. He tried to cast himself as a powerless simple warehouse employee who accidentally rose to political power. This image of impotence is a change from the man seen in footage of the dozens of interviews he gave during the war, whose goal, prosecutors said, was to “incite and fan the flames of violence and retribution”. 

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