Police search for alleged war criminal after Australia’s High Court orders his extradition

By Rod Mcguirk, AP
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Aust. police hunt alleged Balkans war criminal

CANBERRA, Australia — Police searched Thursday for a fugitive Australian citizen who disappeared this week when the country’s highest court ordered his extradition to Croatia to face war crimes charges stemming from the 1990s Balkan wars, the government said.

Dragan Vasiljkovic, now known as Daniel Snedden, is accused of slaying or ordering the slayings of civilians while he was a Serb paramilitary commander during the 1991-93 Serbo-Croat war. A four-year court battle ended Tuesday when the High Court approved his extradition.

Snedden, 55, who denies committing any war crimes, was not required to attend Tuesday’s hearing. He previously surrendered his passport and had been ordered to avoid air and sea ports. He was supposed to keep police informed of his whereabouts, but he dropped out of view on Tuesday.

“The Australian Federal Police are continuing to make inquiries to locate Mr. Snedden,” a statement from the Attorney-General’s Department said.

“Mr. Snedden had complied with these court orders restricting his movements until” Tuesday, the statement said. He did not attend court to hear the verdict.

Australian police declined to comment on Thursday.

Belgrade-born Snedden came to Australia when he was 15 but returned to his homeland to train Croatian Serb rebels in 1991, when Serbs took up arms against Croatia’s secession from the former Yugoslav federation.

The man once known as “Captain Dragan” acknowledges serving as a Serb commander but has repeatedly denied committing war crimes during the Croatian conflict, which killed about 10,000 people.

In Croatia, the offenses carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.

Australian police arrested Snedden in 2006 when Croatia made its first extradition request.

A local magistrate ruled against Snedden in early 2007, and a Federal Court judge dismissed his appeal. Last September, he was released from a Sydney prison after the full bench of the Federal Court ruled that there was “a substantial or real chance of prejudice” if he were deported.

Croatia appealed that decision to the High Court.

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