Sunday, 13 September 2009

If I hadn't read Janine di Giovanni's Madness Visible, this story would not have made much sense. In the story, 'Bosnia to seek extradition of accused war criminal', there are a very few details of the alleged crimes against a Bosnian, now Australian citizen, named Daniel Snedden.

I remember when Snedden, whose previous name was Dragan Vasiljkovic, was arrested in Perth. He has now instituted defamation proceedings against The Australian newspaper.

It is likely he will be extradited to Bosnia, as

''Bosnia's court dealing with war crimes is staffed with international judges and prosecutors and it has received very high marks on the international level for its professionalism and impartiality''.

A recent case involving an extradition request from Croatia was declined by Australian authorities because it was deemed the defendant would not receive a fair trial.

But what is "Captain Dragan" accused of? According to the story:

... a Bosnian woman accused Snedden of repeatedly raping her in Zvornik, northern Bosnia, in 1992. The woman, who travelled to Sydney in April to testify in the NSW Supreme Court along with several Croatian men allegedly imprisoned and tortured by Snedden, identified him in court as the ''Captain Dragan'' who repeatedly raped her and watched as other soldiers did so.

Now that I've read about these types of crimes, which were all too common, I can visualise the kind of man Snedden is accused of being. I can understand the anger felt by the woman, who is doubtless a Muslim. I can see in my mind the ravages brought on an innocent people by war.

Snedden was apparently head of a paramilitry unit operating in northern Bosnia in the early 1990s. "Paramilitary" is an opaque term. What it means is that the unit was NOT part of the official military force of Serbia, but operated alongside the military in an ancillary capacity.

The advantage of being in a paramilitary unit is that you could get away with things that a military unit could not. Paramilitary units are not bound by the rules of war, and feel less circumscribed by ethical opinions. In other words, they are potentially worse than the regular army.

It will be interesting to see what happens in this case - both the extradition attempt and the defamation case - as I believe that public outcry would be greater had the September 11 event not taken the public's attention away from Bosnian war crimes.


Andras said...

Actually, under international law paramilitaries are in fact bound by the laws of war. If they commit war crimes, they are liable to prosecution, just like soldiers are. For the details, see the online book Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know - - and in particular the section on paramilitaries.

To the state that employs them, paramilitaries offer the advantage of "plausible deniability" - the paramilitaries do the dirty work they were sent out to accomplish, while their employers can claim (though not always plausibly) to have had no knowledge or control of their criminal actions.

Matt da Silva said...

OK thanks for that information.