"Goran Hadzic, who has died aged 57, was the last fugitive wanted over war crimes in the former Yugoslavia whose capture in 2011 helped to bring the Republic of Serbia in from the diplomatic deep freeze.
An ethnic Serb former warehouseman from Slavonia, a region in east Croatia, Hadzic, supported by Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in Belgrade, led ethnic pogroms and armed insurrection after Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia in June 1991, resulting in partition of the country and the Serbian seizure of a quarter of the territory. For almost two years, from 1991-93, Hadzic set himself up as “President” of the self-styled breakaway Serbian republic of Krajina. In 1995, however, Croatia launched major offensives which would effectively end the war in its favour, after which he moved to Serbia.
Hadzic went on the run after he was indicted in July 2004 on 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1991–95 conflict. In particular he was charged with playing a leading role in the brutal destruction of the Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991. His most notorious alleged crime was the massacre of 250 Croats and other non-Serbs taken from a hospital after the city fell following a three-month siege. Taken to a nearby pig farm, the captives were beaten and tortured before being shot and dumped in a mass grave.
He was also charged with responsibility for the massacre of Croat civilians who were forced to walk into a minefield in the town of Lovas. Other charges included torture of civilians in detention facilities and the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of non-Serbs.
Before his capture in July 2011, Hadzic was said to have been living under a false name in monasteries in northern Serbia, where he was hidden by diehard ultra-nationalist Serbian Orthodox priests. But he started running out of money and it was his apparent desperate attempt to sell a Modigliani portrait (it was never clear whether he really owned such a painting) that got him noticed by the Belgrade authorities, who put a 24-hour tail on the contacts they thought he might go to for help.
On July 20 Hadzic emerged from hiding to meet a friend in some heavily wooded hills not far from his former home in Novi Sad, near the Croatian border. As the meeting began, Serbian commandos emerged from the undergrowth in black balaclavas.
The arrest of Hadzic crossed the last name off the UN tribunal in the Hague’s list of 161 indictees, bringing an end to what had arguably been one of the most successful manhunts in history.
Goran Hadzic was born on September 7 1958 in the Croatian town of Vinkovci, then part of Yugoslavia; and in his youth was politically active as a member of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. Until the break-up of Yugoslavia, he worked as a warehouse man in Vukovar. As Croatia began moves to break away from Yugoslavia, Hadzic emerged as a leader of local Serbs."