D.I.C. Veritas

The Australian, 09.03.2019, Fugitive ‘deeply hurt’ by claims of war crimes

Sydney fugitive Zoran Tadic was shocked and “deeply hurt” to be accused of war crimes, telling a lawyer after fleeing to Belgrade that he helped both Croatians and Serbians in the Balkans war.

Tadic, 60, was named by Croatian war crimes investigators in January as the commander of a Serbian paramilitary unit that carried out barbaric killings of 30 villagers and 13 soldiers in Skabrnja in November 1991.

The Croatians passed on the charges to a court in Split for ratification and for it to issue an ­extradition warrant

Tadic left his home in St John’s Road, Heckenberg, in western Sydney, for Serbia as soon as he could after being told of the ­charges, revealed at the time by The Australian.

Yet he hadn’t travelled for years and his Australian passport was out of date. It now appears he used a Serbian passport to travel.

The revelations will anger Croatian authorities, who were surprised to find Tadic had ­avoided trial because there is no extradition treaty between Serbia and Croatia. They said they thought the Australian Federal Police was monitoring his movements and they would be alerted, but Australian authorities had no reason to stop Tadic boarding his flight — believed to have happened in early February — because there had been no extradition request from Croatia.

Before he left, the news that he was a wanted man caused Tadic to have a heart scare and he went to a Sydney hospital to be checked.

A Belgrade lawyer, Savo Strbac, helped Tadic organise his flight and is helping him settle into life in Belgrade.

Mr Strbac, a Serb originally from Benkovac in Croatia, said while there were problems with discipline among the volunteer fighters on both sides on the frontline, Tadic was “different”.

“He didn’t cause any problems,” Mr Strbac said.

“He was disciplined and responsible. He was showing an understanding of the gravity of the situation.

“So we, the local people, took him in the HQ of the Territorial Defence. He was the only ‘outsider’ — that is, not from the municipality of Benkovac. His main responsibility was to take control of the volunteers so they would not cause any trouble. He knew some of them, since they came together on the frontline. He was doing a great job.”

He said Tadic helped save his sister-in-law’s family, which had been targeted because it was a Serbian-Croatian marriage.

Tadic has told Mr Strbac that he thought of going to the Croatian embassy in Australia when the news broke of his involvement in Skabrnja, but the experience of war criminal Dragan Vasiljkovic, also known as Captain Dragan, scared him.

Captain Dragan, a golf instructor in Perth, fought a ­decade-long legal fight but was extradited to Croatia and sentenced to 13 years’ jail in 2017.

“Tadic wanted to clarify the situation and name all of those Croats that he saved,” Mr Strbac said.

“Then he remembered the case of Captain Dragan and the prosecution he had. He did not want to spend years in prison before the trial. So he just bought the ticket, a regular ticket, to ­Serbia.”

Mr Strbac said there was a ­climate of persecution in Croatia and a false allegation could lead to imprisonment. However, The Australian has previously revealed that Serbian intelligence documents written after the Skabrnja attack specially name Tadic. One document, compiled by Serbian intelligence officer Simo Rosic, says: “Zoran Tadic was the commander of the group which committed murders.’’


Jacquelin Magnay, Europe correspondent


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