Former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic collaborated with Bosnian Serb chiefs to maximise military advantage, a witness at his trial said.“The relationship between the Bosnian Serb leadership and the Croatian Serb leadership was quite consistently good,” historian Christian Nielsen testified at Hadzic’s trial at the Hague Tribunal on Thursday.
He said that their strategic goal was to link up all Serb-controlled territories of Bosnia and Croatia during the 1990s fighting.
As part of its evidence, the prosecution presented a video of a meeting between Hadzic, former president of Republika Srpska and convicted war criminal Biljana Plavsic, Goran Hadzic and Serbian paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan.
According to the indictment, Hadzic and Raznatovic, who was killed in 2000, were part of a joint criminal enterprise alongside the late Serbian strongman leader Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian Radical Party chief Vojislav Seselj.
The aim was to remove non-Serbs from the Croatian areas in order “to make it a part of new Serb-dominated state”, the indictment alleges.
Serb forces forcibly removed Croats and non-Serbs from areas of Croatia that they controlled, Nielsen said in his report presented at the trial.
He said that not only Croats but other minority groups were also targeted.
“Slovaks asked for protection [from Serbian forces] from the authorities in Belgrade. One of the reasons why Serbs targeted Slovaks was Slovakia was, like Croatia, a [Nazi German] puppet state during World War II,” Nielsen said.
In his report, he spoke of the circumstances that led to the conflicts in Croatia.
“The 1990 elections in Croatia led to the victory of nationalistic parties on both sides, such as the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, and on the other side the Serb Democratic Party, which also got a lot of votes,” Nielsen said.
He said that “Serbs reacted negatively to the victory of the HDZ and Franjo Tudjman being president, as this victory has been linked to the past oppression of Serbs in Croatia during World War II.”
“The rhetoric of Franjo Tudjman denied the suffering of Serbs during World War II resulting in extreme anxiety of Serbs in Croatia. This situation was manipulated by Serb politicians,” he added.
Hadzic faces 14 war crimes charges, including the persecution, extermination and torture of non-Serb civilians from Croatia between 1991 and 1993.
During the war in Croatia, Hadzic was the president of the self-proclaimed Serbian Autonomous District of Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem, and subsequently the president of the Republic of Serbian Krajina.
His trial will resume on Friday.