WASHINGTON —The U.S. Helsinki Commission leadership welcomed the arrest of Goran Hadzic in Serbia. Following the arrest by Serbian authorities of Ratko Mladic on May 26, Hadzic was the only still at-large indictee facing charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), located in The Hague. He was indicted in July 2004 for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Croats and other non-Serbs in Croatia beginning in 1991.
“While twenty years has been a long time for Hadzic’s victims to wait, I hope that those who lost so much – their homes, neighborhoods, and perhaps family and friends – will have a sense of justice in knowing he will finally have to account for his crimes,” said Representative Chris Smith (NJ-04), U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman. “In September 1991, I visited the Eastern Slavonia region of Croatia, including Osijek and Vukovar when it was still under siege, and saw firsthand the incredible devastation which is the basis for the charges against Hadzic and his cohorts in The Hague. I will never forget the pulverized churches and other buildings, the injured defenders coming into the hospital, and the civilians huddled in underground shelters for weeks.”
“Cooperation by all Western Balkan countries with the Tribunal has been a foreign policy priority for me since the 1990s,” remarked Senator Ben Cardin (MD), U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman. “Serbia’s cooperation, while improving, remained problematic over the years, but when I visited Belgrade earlier this month I felt the country was genuinely trying to remove the last vestiges of the extreme nationalist sentiment that has dominated the country’s politics for far too long. Serbia’s reluctance to change course certainly held their nation back from where it should be regarding European integration, but the arrest of Hadzic confirms a solid commitment to change. I encourage Serbian officials to continue to do the right thing for their country and its neighbors.”