Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Captain Dragan Extradition Fears

By Merdijana Sadovic in Sarajevo (TU No 498, 21-Apr-07)
The Australian Serb community fears war crimes suspect Dragan Vasiljkovic would be killed if the authorities there allow his extradition to Croatia.

This month, an Australian court has decided to extradite the former Serb paramilitary leader, known as Captain Dragan, who is accused of having committed war crimes in Croatia in the early Nineties.

Vasiljković was given two weeks to appeal the decision in Australia's Federal Court.

But the Serb community in Australia warns that Vasiljkovic was not indicted by the Hague tribunal and that there is no firm evidence against him.

"The Croatians say they want to question him, but the problem is that they would kill Vasiljkovic as soon as he arrived in Zagreb,” claims George Bubalo, president of the Australian association Serbs for Justice and Democracy.

“We believe there are no fair trials for Serbs in Croatia,” he told the Organisation of Asia-Pacific News Agencies, OANA.

"If there is anything that would prove Vasiljkovic did something wrong, he should be taken to The Hague”, he said.

Croatia says Vasiljković is responsible for torturing and killing Croat soldiers and civilians when he commanded a Serb paramilitary unit during Croatia's 1991-95 war of independence.

He is accused of commanding a unit of the Serbian Red Beret paramilitaries, which allegedly killed civilians, raped women and executed hospital patients.

According to court documents, he has lived in Australia since 1969 but left the country in the early 1990s to fight in the Balkans. After the war, Vasiljkovic returned to live in Perth in Western Australia, where he worked as a golf instructor until his arrest in January last year.

Bubalo says his association has already spent substantial sums in legal fees fighting Vasiljkovic's extradition to Croatia. He adds that the money was raised from “Australia's 150,000 Serbs and other supporters who believe in Captain Dragan's innocence”.

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR’s Hague programme manager.