Dual Australian-Serbian citizen, Dragan Vasiljkovic, also known as ‘Captain Dragan’, was extradited to Croatia to face trial in 2015.
A Croatian court has ruled he was responsible for the deaths of at least two civilians in the Balkans conflict during the 1990s.
Judge Damir Romac said he was in command of a unit that destroyed Croatian villages and tortured prisoners.
“[The guards] were taking them out to be executed, torturing them and psychologically abusing them,” Judge Romac told the court.
“The prisoners told Vasiljkovic all of this,” he said.
“And he witnessed it himself.”
0:00 ‘Captain Dragan’ sentenced to 15 years for war crimes Share ‘Captain Dragan’ sentenced to 15 years for war crimes
The 62-year-old was born in Belgrade and came to Australia as a teenager.
He returned to the Balkans to train Croatian Serb rebels in 1991.
At the time of his arrest, he was working as a golf instructor in Perth, Western Australia, under the name Daniel Snedden.
In 2015, he became the first Australian citizen to be extradited to face war crimes charges, after a ten year legal battle that ended in the High Court.
Vasiljkovic always denied the charges.
In an interview with SBS World News in 2009, he said the Australian government should have helped him more.
“There is not a single supportive fact that can support any war crimes accusations against me,” he insisted.
Former Senior Legal Officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Professor Gideon Boas, said Australia spent millions supporting an extradition process, when Vasiljkovic could have been tried here.
Former Senior Legal Officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Professor Gideon Boas.SBS World News
“It would have sent a message that we are committed to investigating and prosecuting war criminals who are under our nose,” Professor Boas said.
“Unfortunately we missed that opportunity,” he said.
Professor Boas said there could be many more like him.
“It’s widely thought that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have a case to answer for war crimes and crimes against humanity living in Australia, Professor Boas said.
Vasiljkovic will serve only three-and-a-half more years in prison, after judges took into account the time he has already served in detention in Australia and Croatia.
His lawyers said they would appeal.