ISSN 2330-717X

Croatia Indicts Serb Paramilitary ‘Captain Dragan’


By Sven Milekic

Former Serb paramilitary commander Dragan Vasiljkovic, known as ‘Captain Dragan’, was indicted for war crimes including the torture and killings of Croatian soldiers and civilians.

The county attorney’s office in the Croatian coastal city of Split on Friday raised a war crimes indictment against Vasiljkovic, who is also known as Daniel Snedden in Australia, where he holds citizenship.

He was charged with the torture, mistreatment and killings of imprisoned Croatian soldiers and policemen in June and July 1991 at the fortress in Knin, and in February 1993 in Bruska.

He was also indicted for participating in planning an attack on the town of Glina and surrounding villages in July 1991, when civilians were killed and property looted and destroyed.

Vasiljkovic, better known in the Balkans as ‘Captain Dragan’, has been in custody in Split since July 2015, after he was deported from Australia, where he lived for many years under the name Daniel Snedden and worked as a golf instructor.

He was sent to Croatia after losing a nine-year battle against extradition.

The charges were laid almost at the last moment, as the state attorney’s office has a maximum of six months to raise an indictment. If it wasn’t raised, Vasiljkovic would have been able to leave custody after January 10.

Vasiljkovic has denied the allegations and sought to avoid extradition from Australia on the grounds that he would not have a fair trial in Croatia.

Belgrade also lobbied the Australian government for Vasiljkovic to be prosecuted in Serbia rather than Croatia, also alleging that he would not get a fair trial.

During the early 1990s, Vasiljkovic came to the Knin region of Croatia to train a special armed unit of Serbian rebels, known as the Knindze – a pun on the words ‘Knin’ and ‘ninja’. They helped carve out a territory later proclaimed as the Republic of Serbian Krajina.

Vasiljkovic also instructed the notorious Serbian warlord Zeljko Raznjatovic, alias Arkan, and members of his Tigers paramilitary unit, amongst others.

Hague Tribunal indictments have connected the Tigers directly to Slobodan Milosevic’s government, maintaining that they were financed out of Serbia’s state budget.

Vasiljkovic testified as a prosecution witness at Milosevic’s trial in The Hague in 2003, when he denied having had any connection to Belgrade.

The Tribunal in 2007 named him as a participant in crimes against Croats and other non-Serbs in the case of former Croatian Serb leader Milan Martic, but did not request his arrest.

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Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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