Training centres where Serbs were taught to fight during the 1990s conflict in Croatia had links to officials in Belgrade, a Hague Tribunal trial is told.The paramilitary centres were under the effective control of the Belgrade authorities, said historian Christian Nielsen, an expert witness at the trial of former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic on Friday.
One of the biggest, in the Croatian village of Erdut, was run by the notorious criminal and paramilitary commander Zeljko Raznatovic, also known as Arkan.
“It was always a subject of speculation under whose support Arkan was in Croatia. On the basis of various official and unofficial documents, Arkan was affiliated with the Serbian security services within the ministry of the interior,” Nielsen said at the trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY.
According to the ICTY 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 Croatian areas in order to make them “part of new Serb-dominated state”, the indictment alleges.
“Numerous reports say that there was an association between Hadzic and Arkan. They appeared a lot of times together publicly. And one of the [Serbian] state security reports from October 1992 reads that Hadzic was often seen in a company of Arkan,” Nielsen said.
Speaking about control over police stations in Serb-run parts of Croatia, Nielsen said that at first they were run from Belgrade, which later handed them over to the local Serb leadership.
“At some point in 1991, effective control over police was in the hands of the Serbian ministry of the interior, but later, that changed,” Nielsen said.
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.
The trial will resume on Monday.