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Former Serb commander fights Australian extradition

By Candy Ikokwu

23 November 2012 at 13:04 BST

Ex-US Marine lieutenant general and lawyer Michael Mori is to challenge an Australian government decision to extradite former Serb paramilitary commander Dragan Vasiljkovic for war crimes.

Dragan Vasiljkovic: judicial review

Dragan Vasiljkovic: judicial review Getty Images

Mr Vasiljkovic is alleged to have tortured and slaughtered prisoners of war and civilians in Croatia between 1991 and 1993. The case has involved a seven-year Australian court battle, which culminated recently with the High Court overturning a lower decision not to extradite Mr Vasiljkovic on the grounds that he would not receive a fair trial in Croatia.


The former commander is an Australian citizen, although he was born in Belgrade, and has been imprisoned since 2006. A decision to approve the extradition was made by the country’s home affairs minister, Jason Clare.
The accused has launched a judicial review challenge through his newly appointed legal representative, Mr Mori, who faces a difficult challenge, but also has wide scope for legal argument, according to Mr Vasiljkovic’s former barrister, Clive Evatt QC, who was quoted in a report in The Australian newspaper. The presence of Mr Mori has excited attention in the legal profession in the hope that it will increase the pace of legal challenges in similar cases.

Discretionary powers

The case throws a spotlight on the Australian government’s exercise of discretionary powers. Criminal barrister Greg Barns -- a member of the Australian Lawyers Alliance -- told the newspaper: ‘There’s been one-way traffic in war crimes cases in Australia for a long period of time.’
The alliance’s Tom Percy QC has put the pressure on ministers, claiming they are increasingly finding themselves ‘in an invidious position’. The courts, he says, are giving closer scrutiny to ministerial decision making. Recent years have seen successful challenges to decisions in wider areas involving immigration and asylum.


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