Australian High Court approves extradition of ‘Captain Dragan’ to Croatia

The Australian High Court ruled today that suspected war criminal Dragan Vasiljkovic, known as Captain Dragan, can be extradited to Croatia to face trial for alleged war crimes.

The High Court overturned an earlier Federal Court decision that Vasiljkovic cannot be extradited because of the possibility that he will not receive a fair trial because of his political beliefs.

The appeals hearing began yesterday when the Defence gave its arguments for the earlier decision to be upheld. The Commonwealth government, representing Croatia, argued against the Federal Court’s ruling to block Vasiljkovic’s extradition. According to The Times, today’s court decision was delivered after only 15 minutes of deliberation.

Dragan Vasiljkovic, who took the name Daniel Snedden when he first moved to Australia, is an Australian citizen and worked as a golf instructor in Perth until his arrest in 2006 on a Croatian extradition request.

Vasiljkovic was born in Belgrade, but moved as a child with his family to Australia. At the beginning of the wars in Yugoslavia, he returned to Serbia and formed the paramilitary Red Berets unit, which fought alongside Serb forces in Croatia and later in Bosnia.

The Croatian Prosecution has accused Vasiljkovic of involvement in crimes committed in 1991 in the area of Benkovac and Knin.

In 2003 he was a Prosecution witness at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, the late president of Serbia who died in 2006 while on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY. Vasiljkovic denied that there was any link between his unit and the Serbian police. He testified without immunity.

The ICTY Prosecution named Vasiljkovic as a participant in a joint criminal enterprise in Croatia together with Milan Martic, but neither an arrest warrant nor an indictment were issued. Martic, a leader of the Croatian Serbs during the war in Croatia, was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2008.

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