Thursday, July 21, 2011

War Crimes Fugitive Goran Hadzic Arrested, Awaiting Transfer to ICTY

War crimes fugitive, Goran Hadzic on Mt. Fruska Gora, Serbia Wednesday July 20, 2011 upon his arrest by Serbian officials. Photo: AP / Politika

It has certainly been an eventful summer for International Criminal Law. If you looked on the docket list of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)[1] this past Spring, you would have seen the names of two war crimes fugitives: Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic listed as still “At Large” like they have been for nearly a decade. In May, however, Mladic, a lead architect of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, perpetrated during the 1991-95 Balkan Wars, was arrested by Serbia and extradited to the ICTY in the Hague Netherlands. Yesterday, the last remaining fugitive, Goran Hadzic, 53, was arrested by Serbian officials after 8 years in hiding.

Prompted by the Mladic arrest, the ABA’s Section of International Law, International Human Rights Committee (IHRC) reached out to Colonel Linda Strite Murnane, ICTY’s Senior Legal Officer, for her insight into the Mladic Extradition. We requested Ms. Murnane speak in an IHRC Free Teleconference scheduled for Thursday July 21, 2011[2] along with Professor, William Dunlap of Quinnipiac University School of Law. In preparing for a teleconference on Mladic, we could not have asked for better timing of Hadzic's arrest, which came yesterday on Mt. Fruska in Serbia. Hadzic’s attorney, Toma Fila told reporters in Belgrade that his client had waived his right to appeal a Serbian war crimes court order allowing his extradition to the (ICTY). There is talk that Hadzic could arrive at the Hague as early as Friday July 22.nd

Per his June 4, 2004 ICTY indictment, Hadzic faces 14 counts of Crimes Against Humanity, and war crimes for the systematic murder and torture of Croatian civilians during the bloody 1991-1995 ethnic wars resulting in the break up of the former Yugoslavia. The ICTY has indicted 161 people since the court was established by the UN Security Council in 1993, mostly for war crimes ranging from Genocide to Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Hadzic, will in all likelihood be the last accused to be tried by the (ICTY), perhaps marking the beginning of the end of the effort to bring justice to the victims. Now, with Hadzic finally in the dock, the ICTY may shut down in 2015 as scheduled, with no pending cases left behind. On Wednesday, Judge O-Gon Kwon, the acting head of the court, called the Hadzic arrest "a milestone in the tribunal's history."

Some are speculating that the two recent arrests of Mladic and Hadzic signal a turning point for Serbia’s ambitions to enter the European Union. In 2006, the E.U. suspended accession talks with Serbia over its lack of cooperation with ICTY, and kept them frozen for more than a year. Regardless of Serbia’s motivations, the judicial process, delayed by nearly a decade of Mladic and Hadzic on the lam, can now proceed. It is important to note that Hadzic and Mladic are presumed innocent until found guilty. The judicial process is integral to victims’ healing, to personal accountability, and to the future protection of human rights.

[1] See the ICTY website,

To dial-in to the Teleconference, 1-877-464-2827, Code 84945474. A recording of the Teleconference will be made available for future listening on the ABA SIL website.


  1. Liz,

    Why is Hadzic likely to be the last to be tried? Is it based on the court's mandate?


  2. E. Palmer, thanks for the question, it's a great one!

    The ICTY is a court of limited jurisdiction as mandated by the U.N. resolution which established the court in 1991. It's jurisdiction is to try individuals "responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991." With this strict purpose, the ICTY issued 161 indictments for persons believed to be responsible for such "serious violations."

    Up until this May, two indictees, Mladic and Hadzic were at large and living in hiding as fugitives. After Mladic was arrested in May, this left Goran Hadzic as the last indicted person still at large. Now that Hadzic has been found in Serbia and transferred to the ICTY, the Court now will conduct official proceedings as it has for the previous 160 indicted persons.

    The ICTY has concurrent jurisdiction with the national governments of the former Yugoslavia. The ICTY's mandated jurisdiction is to try those persons responsible for "serious" violations of international humanitarian law or as Professor Dunlap said during the IHRC teleconference, "the big fish" offenders. The ICTY indicted 161 persons or "big fish" and proceedings for those 160 have concluded or are currently underway. Other offenders have been tried in national courts.

    Hadzic is the last of those indicted by the ICTY to meet the judicial process. He was indicted in 2004 and since lived as a fugitive.

    Since the ICTY has limited jurisdiction tied to the territory of the former Yugoslavia and temporally constrained to crimes committed since 1991, the ICTY is not mandated to exist indefinitely into the future. Rather, the ICTY in keeping with its limited mandate has a "completion strategy" to complete judicial proceedings. It is unclear how the transfer of Hadzic to the ICTY will affect the end date of their current completion strategy.