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Serbia arrests last war crimes fugitive, clearing way to EU candidacy

Serbian authorities have arrested Goran Hadzic, the last remaining fugitive war crimes suspect sought by the UN tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the BBC reports.

He faces 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including persecution, extermination, and torture, and is expected to be transferred to The Hague in the coming days.

Hadzic was a central figure in the self-proclaimed Serb republic of Krajina in 1992-1993, leading the campaign to block Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia.

He is held responsible for the massacre of almost 300 men in Vukovar in 1991 by Croatian Serb troops and for the deportation of 20,000 people from the town after it was captured.

The BBC says the Hadzic case was seen as the last big obstacle to Serbia gaining EU candidate status and a start date for accession talks. There was a $1.4m (£870,000) reward offered for his capture.

EU top officials said the arrest was "a further important step for Serbia in realising its European perspective and equally crucial for international justice".

"Following the capture of Ratko Mladic, this arrest sends a positive signal to the European Union and to Serbia's neighbours, but most of all on the rule of law in Serbia itself," the leaders said in a statement.

Amnesty International also hailed the arrest.

“This long overdue arrest will bring justice at last to the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Croatia,” Amnesty’s  Serbia researcher, Sian Jones, said:

“This arrest underscores the continuing and urgent need for authorities in the countries of former Yugoslavia to investigate and, where there is sufficient admissible evidence, to prosecute those suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. There are tens of thousands of such suspects where national authorities have failed to open any investigation.”