Croatian-Serb commander jailed

Croatian-Serb commander jailed

A Croatian court has sentenced an Australian citizen and former Serbian paramilitary commander to 15 years in jail for torturing and killing soldiers and civilians during Croatia’s 1991-95 war.

Dragan Vasiljkovic, 62, who has dual Serbian and Australian citizenship, was charged for violating the Geneva Convention by torturing and killing Croatian prisoners of war and police in the rebel stronghold of Knin (pictured) and for crimes near the towns of Glina and Benkovac in the early 1990s.

He was convicted after a year-long Croatian trial in the Adriatic city of Split examining his torturing of prisoners and an attack on a police station during an ethnic-Serb insurrection.

The court heard that Vasiljkovic had directed his subordinates to torture captured Croat soldiers in an improvised prison he set up in Serb-held Knin.

He was also found guilty of leading an attack on the town of Glina, in which two civilians died and others fled.

Vasiljkovic was also acquitted of the 1993 torture and murder of two Croat troops in another village.

He said the trial was “political”, calling it an “oppressive fascist process”.

“Not only did I not commit any crimes that I am charged with, I can only ask why I was brought here and charged in the first place,” the former commander said.

He fought for almost a decade against extradition from Australia, saying he would not receive a fair trial in Croatia.

His lawyers have said they would appeal against the sentence.

The judges said they would take into account the time Vasiljkovic served in detention in Australia and in a Croatian prison, meaning he has three and a half years of his sentence remaining.

Vasiljkovic was born in Serbia and moved to Australia aged 15.

After Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia, its Serb minority, backed by Belgrade, seized around a third of the country by force.

Vasiljkovic moved to Australia in 1969 and later spent four years in the army reserves before being courted by Serbian military intelligence, The Australian reported.

He was arrested in Australia in 2006, while working as a golf instructor under the name Daniel Snedden.

Vasiljkovic had returned to the Balkans in the early 1990s as Slovenia and Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991 when the threat of a Soviet invasion had gone. Bosnia and Macedonia later left, leaving just Serbia and Montenegro. Kosovo later broke away from Belgrade.

Croatian war damage. Picture credit: Pixabay  

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