Australia’s Federal Court has the power to free accused war criminal Dragan Vasiljkovic if it agrees with his latest appeal against his extradition, his lawyers say.
Vasiljkovic has launched a series of challenges to the Australian government’s decision to allow his extradition for alleged murders of prisoners of war in the early 1990s.
The Australian citizen, also known as Daniel Snedden, has spent much of the past seven years in prison in Australia after Croatian authorities requested his extradition in January 2006.
In his latest appeal before the Federal Court, his lawyers have argued for his release, saying the Australian government had failed to act on Croatia’s extradition request “as soon as reasonably practicable”.
As a result, the arrest warrant detaining the one-time Serbian paramilitary commander was no longer justified, his barrister Richard Knowles has argued in the Federal Court in Melbourne.
Neil Williams SC, for the Australian government, told the court on Friday even if it rules in Vasiljkovic’s favour, the relevant government minister has no power to order his release.
But Mr Knowles argued while the minister had no power to order his client’s release, the Federal Court did.
Mr Williams rejected arguments by Vasiljkovic’s legal team on a complex series of legal submissions, including that the government failed to act within a reasonable timeframe on his extradition request.
Both Vasiljkovic and the Australian government are appealing before a full bench of the court aspects of a judgment handed down in November.
In that ruling, Federal Court judge Jennifer Davies ruled Mr Vasiljkovic had been denied procedural fairness.
But she rejected his other claims, including challenging the Australian government’s decision to allow his extradition on the grounds that the time allowed for such action had expired, and that there had been legal errors in relation to the Geneva Conventions.
Vasiljkovic appeared in court via videolink from Sydney’s Parklea prison.
Croatian court documents claim he ordered the killing of prisoners of war and led an assault on a village in which civilians were killed during the 1990s Balkan war.
Belgrade-born Vasiljkovic denies the allegations.
The judges have reserved their decision.