The former Croatian Serb leader, Goran Hadzic, was very close to the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who guided him through the war in Croatia, says a former member of Hadzic’s political party.Testifying at Hadzic’s trial at the Hague Tribunal, Borivoje Savic, his former friend and party colleague, recalled their joint arrest by the Croatian police on March 31, 1991, near Lake Plitvice.
Savic and Hadzic, who together founded the Serbian Democratic Forum, SDF, in 1991, were on their way back from a political meeting in the Croatian village of Obrovac when they were arrested.
Veljko Dzakula, another of the leaders of the SDF, who has already testified, said that this event further radicalized Hadzic’s plan to ethnically clean Serb run parts of Croatia.
Savic said that his relations with Hadzic started to cool when he noted that Hadzic was under the influence of the then Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.
“I told him that that a close relationship with Milosevic was not a good thing for us, but he insisted that he was a honest and good man,” Savic said.
He added that he advised Hadzic “to turn his attention to negotiating with the authorities in Zagreb, rather than calling Belgrade about every decision. However, Hadzic remained stubborn”.
During the cross examination by Hadzic’s defence team, Savic denied his role in the crimes committed in the Croatian village of Lovas.
According to the documents presented by the defence, Savic entered Lovas in October 23, 1991, as one of the leaders of the Territorial Defence force.
However, Savic denied having any connection with the Territorial Defence force in Lovas, adding that he went to the village after he had heard about the horrific events there, including the fact that some Croat villagers had been killed after being forced to walk through a mine field.
He also said that he had no power over the Serb forces in the village.
In June this year, the Belgrade Special Court found 14 men guilty of war crimes in Lovas, deeming them responsible for killing 40 civilians and sentencing them to a total of 128 years in jail.
Hadzic faces 14 war crimes charges, including the persecution, extermination and torture of non-Serb civilians from Croatia between 1991 and 1993.
During the Croatian war, Hadzic was the President of the Government of the self-proclaimed Serbian Autonomous District Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem, SAO SBWS, and subsequently the President of the Republic of Serbian Krajina, RSK.
According to the ICTY indictment, Hadzic was part of a joint criminal enterprise, JCE, together with Milosevic, Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan and Vojislav Seselj, which came into existence no later than 1 April 1991, and continued until at least 31 December 1995.
The trial will continue on Thursday, November 1.