Serbia extradites last major war crimes suspect

Serbia extradited on Friday the last ethnic Serb wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague,...

Picture: EWN

Serbia extradited

on Friday the last ethnic Serb wanted by the International Criminal

Court in The Hague, in a symbolic moment for the once-pariah Balkan

nation's European future.

A police motorcade drove Goran

Hadzic, a wartime leader of Croatia's Serbs, to Belgrade airport, where

he boarded a flight to The Hague to face charges of crimes against

humanity committed during the 1991-95 war in Croatia.

"Goran

Hadzic is en route to the Hague," Serbian Justice Minister Snezana

Malovic said shortly after noon (11:00 a.m. British time).

The European Union has insisted that Serbia arrest all wanted war criminals before it grants candidate status for membership.

A

lesser known figure from the Balkan wars, Hadzic was on the run for

seven years before his arrest on Wednesday, outlasting Bosnian Serb

commander Ratko Mladic as the last suspect at large.

"This

is a symbolic event for Serbia. It has closed this extremely heavy page

and the tribunal will fade away as an important issue very soon," said

Zoran Dragisic, and analyst with Belgrade's International Institute for

Security think tank.

"Mladic's

arrest was a landmark moment. Hadzic was a figurehead and an

insignificant character and he had the sheer luck to remain the last

fugitive."

Serbian security

officials arrested Hadzic on a forest road in the Fruska Gora national

park region about 65 km (40 miles) north of Belgrade.

Hadzic's

wife and son visited him in prison on Thursday, and then another woman

with a daughter he fathered while on the run made a final visit on

Friday, witnesses at the courthouse said.

Serbian officials also allowed Hadzic to visit his sick mother in Serbia's second largest town before his departure.

In

contrast to the public reaction to the arrest of Mladic and his wartime

commander Radovan Karadzic three years ago, few Serbs lamented Hadzic's

departure.

A satirical Serbian

website captured the mood by running a photograph of a few pedestrians

walking on Belgrade's main square under the ironical headline: "Serbs

protest the arrest of Goran Hazdic on Republic Square."