Published in Nacional number 532, 2006-01-23
DETAILS BEHIND THE INTERPOL RED WARRANT
Croatia has evidence against Captain Dragan
Croatian authorities are in possession of statements by members of HV and Serbian units accusing Dragan Vasiljkovic, recently arrested in Australia, of participating in the beating and liquidation of Croatian soldiers
Dragan Vasiljković, poznat kao Kapetan Dragan A soldier who fought under the command of Dragan Vasiljkovic, better known as Captain Dragan, on the side of the aggressor, has confirmed for Croatian authorities that he saw three of his colleagues beat and then shoot and kill two Croatian soldiers on 24 February 1993 in Bruska near Benkovac at the Centre for training the Serbian paramilitary Alfa special unit. At that time, the Centre was under the command of Vasiljkovic. This is not the only evidence the Croatian Interior Ministry based its international red warrant for the arrest of Vasiljkovic. Vasiljkovic was arrested in Sydney Australia at midnight on 20 January by the Australian Federal Police.
The Croatian authorities are also in possession of statements by members of the Croatian military and police who were imprisoned in the Knin fortress in June and July 1991 by forces under Vasiljkovic's command. The imprisoned men were Velibor Bracic, Nikica Plivelic, Zvonko Magdic, Ivan Krizmanic, Milo and Nikola Luketic, Tomislav Ceronje, Mark Mijic and Osman Vikic. They were forced into a single dugout without any hygienic facilities and for days were beaten with fists, feet, rubber batons and rifle buts. Rifle barrels were forced into their mouths, they were told they would be taken to execution, were psychologically tortured and tortured with thirst. The prisoners complained to Vasiljkovic of the conduct of his soldiers, but he simply ignored them. Furthermore, Velibor Bracic, one of the imprisoned men, told the Croatian authorities that Vasiljkovic personally beat him, as an example to his men.
While the members of Vasiljkovic's unit were beating him with rubber clubs and rifle butts over his entire body, Vasiljkovic first watched and then said, „Now you'll see how it's done“. Bracic said that he wound up and kicked him in the head with his military boot. Bracic's head was covered in blood from the head injury he received.
In addition to these testimonies, the Croatian authorities are also in possession of expansive military documentation which confirms that Vasiljkovic and the late YNA Captain Ratko Rapaic, then commander of the tank unit of the Pancevo armoured battalion, drafted the attack plan on the police station in Glina, the settlement Jukinac and the villages of Gornji and Donji Vidusevac. Vasiljkovic and Rapaic ordered the tank units to fire upon the church and school in Gornji Vidusevac, and to use all available munitions to fire upon the houses and commercial structures, even though there were no military forces here and no resistance was offered. In taking Jukinac, he forced the population to flee and then members of Vasiljkovic's units plundered the abandoned homes. Local man Nikola Regic was killed, as was German journalist Egon Schotland, who was in a clearly marked press vehicle.
This is the most substantial part of the special report of the Sibenik Crime Police (KU-1158/92) of 16 September 2005. The police suspect Vasiljkovic of violating international law, killing prisoners of war and crimes against the civil population. The police forwarded their report to the Sibenik County Prosecutor's office, which submitted its request for an investigation to the Sibenik County Court on 28 November 2005. Dalibor Dukic, investigative judge of the Sibenik County Court decided on 11 January 2006 that an investigation would be held against Vasiljkovic, and issued a warrant for his detention.
Ten days later, Vasiljkovic was arrested in Australia and is currently awaiting extradition to Croatia. The Croatian authorities have a two month deadline to hand over materials proving the foundedness of the arrest warrant to the Australian authorities. It appears that this will not be a difficult task, though this case was initially compromised by the Croatian government.
The case did not begin in Croatia, but in Australia with the story of a local reporter who found Dragan Vasiljkovic in Perth under the name Daniel Snedden. According to the Australian media, Snedden said that he had only one profession – golf. He denied all claims of war crimes, stating that this was nothing more than war propaganda. The Australian press mentioned war crimes committed in Bosnia & Herzegovina, but not in Croatia. The discovery that Vasiljkovic was using the name Daniel Snedden is neither new nor spectacular. This name is mentioned in a report by former Foreign Minister Mate Granic on 30 June 1995 which was submitted to the UN High Representative for Human Rights. In talking about the participation of foreign mercenaries in the war against Croatia, Granic also included Vasiljkovic or Daniel Snedden, an Australian citizen who was responsible for running the Alfa training centre in Bruska near Benkovac.
However, the Croatian authorities made no efforts to ensure that his actions were criminally prosecuted, right up until the discovery of the Australian journalist. Furthermore, not even Vasiljkovic's return to Serbia & Montenegro in December 2004 excited the Croatian authorities. It was only after the publication of this article that Croatian General Consul in Perth, Tihomir Telisman, stated that he was shocked to learn that Vasiljkovic was living in Perth and that he would immediately request that the Australian government launch an investigation against him.
Proof that the Croatian authorities did not show great interest in Vasiljkovic is seen in the fact that in September 2005, they even mistook Vasiljkovic for another man with a similar name. This was confirmed by a special report of the Sibenik police of 16 September 2005, which actually initiated Vasiljkovic's arrest last week.
At first he reacted quite confidently and then arrogantly and vulgarly to the act that he was suddenly in the public eye. He even sent three e-mails to the private address of Justice Minister Vesna Skare-Ozbolt. In the first, he announced that he would be available to her and would be willing to come in for questioning. The second e-mail was not as cooperative and the third addressed her with vulgarities, which proves that he holds Ozbolt responsible for his sudden judicial problems. He even sent Skare-Ozbolt a virus packaged in an e-mail from his account HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com, and almost destroyed her computer. It took computer experts two full weeks to get it functioning. Some of the Serbian media even cited portions of that email. If their claims are correct, then they prove the vulgarity and primitivism of the seemingly refined golf instructor. The third insulting email also directly shows that Vasiljkovic was quite disturbed by his judicial problems.
Last week's turn of events revealed that Vasiljkovic has many justified reasons for concern. Not long after the news of his arrest, the amateur video material which proves the involvement of his units in the destruction of civilian targets was replayed, while new witnesses have stepped forward to talk about his activities during the armed conflict.
Dragan Vasiljkovic, better known as Captain Dragan, and who currently uses the name Daniel Snedder, was born on 12
December 1954 in Belgrade where he grew up without parents in an orphanage. He went to Australia in 1969 where he completed military school and later went on to complete Military Academy. He left the military in 1985 and was then a security advisor to Tanzania, owner of a photo studio and a brothel in Melbourne.
He returned to Yugoslavia in 1990 and began to work on establishing a private air carrier. In spring 1991, he was invited by Jovica Stanisic and Milan Martic to go to Republika Srpska Krajina and form a training camp for Serb volunteers. That same year in Belgrade, he founded a humanitarian foundation to aid the wounded. After Operation Maslenica, he returned to Knin Krajina and founded the Alfa military training camp at Bruska, where he trained the Krajina army.
Vasiljkovic first entered into the spotlight in mid 1991 when the special forces of the Krajina army attacked Glina. At that time, Croatian Television broadcast the massacred bodies of nine Croatian police officers. On newspaper article released Vasiljkovic's comment „When the Croatian side uses hospitals, police stations and villages as their fortresses, excuse me, but I have to massacre them.“ Allegedly, he claimed that this statement in that article was not confirmed. In spring of 1991, with the held of the Serbian state security agency, he trained the first generation of special forces, which later turned into the Army of the Republic of Srpska Krajina near Knin. This was the first generation of 57 soldiers. Among them was Zvezdan Jovanovic Zveki, accused of the murder of Serbian Premier Zoran Djindjic, as well as several other names mentioned before the ICTY: Zika Ivanovic, called Zika the Montenegrin who was part of Milosevic's security for a time; Dragan Filipovic Fica, also one of Milosevic's bodyguards; Rajo Bozovic and Vaso Mijovic, a special security advisor in Montenegro. Many came directly from the prison in Golubic, while many others had been previously convicted of drug dealing, murder, rape and the like. With this help of his associates, Captain Dragan trained these men and turned them into commandos, and then they went on to train soldiers in other training camps.
This was a typical unit for the darkest of operations, a unit which did not officially exist and whose members had several identities and nicknames and had the full support of the State Security agency, and therefore the Serbian state. According to Vasiljkovic's comments on the ICTY, the central figure in the formation of such units was Frenki Simatovic, who was then assistant or deputy to Jovica Stanisic, head of State Security.
As Vasiljkovic's power grew in the Krajina army and among the Serbian population, those actually holding power in Krajina, particularly Milan Babic feared that he would threaten them with a military coup. Therefore, Vojislav Seselj in Belgrade received the task of visiting Benkovac in November 1991 in order to calm the conflicting parties. Babic's decision was to terminate the Knin unit, a Serbian military unit headed up by Vasiljkovic. Seselj accused him of attacking the legally appointed Serbian leadership, and Vasiljkovic said that Babic was a traitor.
Milosevic returned Vasiljkovic to Serbia where Jovica Stanisic sent him to the military base at Bubanj Potol to train volunteers for battlefields in eastern Slavonia. He returned to Krajina in 1993 where he trained regular troops in the army there.
Vasiljkovic tried his hand at politics. He participated in the Serbian Presidential elections in 1992, but did not have much success. During his stay in Krajina, Vasiljkovic established very close relations to members of the Canadian battalion situated near Benkovac. The daily drinking, socializing and entertainment with the Canadians lead to the positive opinion of the Canadian peacekeepers, which Nacional has already published in exclusive photographs. The Canadians considered him to be a regular soldier who only trained rookie soldiers. Such an official report would certainly eliminate Captain Dragan from the circle of indicted officers before the Hague Tribunal. It is possible his testimony against Slobodan Milosevic also contributed to that. Despite this, it would appear that it is only a question of time before he will be held accountable for his actions before the Croatian justice system.
Vasiljkovic case actualizes the extradition of Antun Gudelj
After Dragan Vasiljkovic was arrested, the Australian authorities directly actualized the extradition of Antun Gudelj. In 1991, Gudelj murdered then Chief of the Osijek police, Josip Reihl-Kir. In 1994, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but in 1997 was illegally granted amnesty pursuant to the General Pardons Act of 1996. The Supreme Court revoked this amnesty with the reasoning that such pardon does not apply to convicted war criminals. Today, Gudelj lives a peaceful life in Australian, even though Vesna Skare-Ozbolt again requested his extradition in October 2005.
28.10.2010. / 14:15
28.10.2010. / 09:38
21.10.2010. / 15:02
20.10.2010. / 09:34