Testifying at the Hague Tribunal, a former Serb politician described Goran Hadzic as originally a “peaceful” man who started advocating war following his arrest by the Croatian police in 1991.
|Goran Hadzic Photo by BIRN|
The trial of the former Croat Serb leader, Goran Hadzic, continued with the testimony of Veljko Dzakula, who was one of the founders of the Serb Democratic Party, SDS, in northern Croatia in 1990, along with Hadzic.
According to Dzakula, the SDS was formed as an “answer by the Serbian people to the secessionist tendencies of Croatia from Yugoslavia” and the treatment of the Serbs in Croatia as “ second class citizens”.
Dzakula went on to say that the situation between the Croatian government and the Serbian minority was “tense” in the spring of 1991, after the Serbs broke away from Croatia and proclaimed autonomous territories in Slavonia and Krajina.
As a result of these tensions, Goran Hadzic, and Boro Savic, both members of the SDS in Vukovar, were arrested by Croatian police.
“There was some kind of conflict with the Croatian police and I heard media reports that he had been arrested. The government claimed they were terrorists.”
“I called the Ministry of Police and asked about Hadzic and I was told the prisoners had been beaten, and that their faces were black with bruises. I demanded that they be released, but they told me they would wait until their injuries had faded,” said Dzakula.
Before his arrest, Hadzic was a “peaceful, democratic and open minded man”, Dzakula said. After his release from prison though, he was “radicalized”, and showed no trust in the Croatian authorities.
“At the end of June 1991 we met again and Hadzic told me he had decided to go to war. He could not see Serbs and Croats coexisting together and he did not trust the government. I said I was not going to war, but he made his decision,” said the witness.
Dzakula told the judges that the conflict between the Croatian army and Serb forces – which were assisted by volunteers from the Serbian Radical party - began in mid-august 1991.
“In Western Slavonia in villages where Croats lived, there were crimes by Serb extremists that used the war to confront those that they did not like. The same things happened to Serbs living in areas under Croatian control”, said the witness.
Hadzic, the former President of the Government of the self-proclaimed Serbian Autonomous District of Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem, SAO SBWS, and subsequently the President of the Republic of Srpska Krajina, RSK is on trial for crimes in Croatia before the Hague tribunal.
Hadzic is indicted for persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, murder, imprisonment, torture, inhumane acts, deportation and forcible transfer, devastation not justified by military necessity, destruction or wilful damage to educational and religious institutions and plunder of public or private property.
The trial will continue on Friday, October 19, when Dzakula will continue his testimony.
The Hague Prosecution charges Goran Hadzic, former President of the Republic of Serbian Krajina, with crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war in Croatia in 1991 and 1992.
Timeline of events leading up to the arrest of Goran Hadzic.