A Serbian war crimes suspect wanted for torturing civilians during the Balkan war has been tracked down to a quiet suburb of Derby.
Milenko Maric, 62, a family man father-of-three and friendly neighbor who works as an electrician has to wear an electronic tag on his ankle and sleep in his own home every night as he awaits extradition proceedings on July 21.
He lives in a modest council house in Pear Tree and his wife, who has health issues, helps children get to the nearby primary school every day.
A shocked neighbor told The Mirror: ‘He and his wife are private people – they don’t speak much English, but they are perfectly nice. He has done odd jobs as an electrician and he helps at the local school.
‘You wouldn’t think for a minute that he’s wanted for war crimes.’
But Maric, who arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker more than 20 years ago, is accused of being part of a ruthless militia which carried out assaults on non-ethnic Serbs at the height of the Yugoslavian war in 1991.
Prosecutors in his homeland claim that the assaults took place in August and September 1991 in a prison after the victims had been dragged from their homes.
Milenko Maric, 62, a family man and friendly neighbor who works as an electrician photographed outside his Derby council house, is accused of being a Serbian war criminal from crimes committed in 1991
Serbian paramilitaries occupied the region of Baranya from 1991-1995, where they carried out atrocities against the non-Serb population. Pictured: A Serbian tank on the border of Croatia and Serbia
Maric, who arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker more than 20 years ago, is accused of being part of a ruthless militia which carried out assaults on non-Serbs at the height of the Yugoslavian war in 1991.
One victim, named Joha, alleges that Maric and two other militia men beat him with electric rubber truncheons ‘on several occasions’ which caused injuries to his ‘entire body’.
Joha also alleges that the militia ransacked and looted his home, taking cash, a gold ring, a gold necklace and a watch.
Legal documents allege: ‘MM [Milenko Maric]as a member of the Secretariat for International Affairs of Manastir, removed a number of civilians of non-Serbian ethnic origin, from the Baranya region and assaulted them.’
The region of Baranya, which today is divided between Hungary and Croatia, was the focus of fierce fighting during the Croatian War of Independence between 1991 to 1995, with 1,700 killed in Baranya’s main city Osijek alone.
It was occupied by Serbian paramilitaries from 1991-1995, who carried out atrocities against the non-Serb population until it returned to Croat control in 1998 following a handover by UN peacekeepers.
Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd approved Maric’s extradition to Croatia in 2016
The city of Mostar in what is today Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was part Croat and part Muslim, was put under siege and heavily bombarded during the Croatian War of Independence. The conflict was very bloody, killing an estimated 140,000 people, according to the International Center for Transitional Justice, and included acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
After the war, Croat authorities hunted down individuals accused of the atrocities and a wanted notice was issued against Maric in 1997. His name was included on a list of 50 suspected war criminals by Croat authorities in 2001.
A warrant for the father-of-three’s arrest was issued by the public prosecutor’s office in Osijek the same year for crimes against humanity.
By this time, Maric had already fled to the UK, where he obtained indefinite leave to remain here.
But persistent war criminal hunters tracked him down to his home in Derby and had him arrested in June 2015. A Westminster magistrate ordered his extradition to Croatia and then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd approved the decision.
He vigorously denies the charges against him, telling The Mirror: ‘I am innocent. I am wrongly accused. I’m not happy to do anything without my solicitor.
‘I don’t want to give any information, just I am innocent.’
In a twisting, turning tale, a trial later in Croatia found him innocent in absentia, but remarkably the country’s Supreme Court overturned the ruling and a new international arrest warrant was issued.
Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader convicted of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague, Holland, will serve the rest of his prison sentence in the UK
He was re-arrested by officers from the National Extradition Unit last March and is due to face a full hearing at Westminster magistrates court on July 21.
The Balkan wars were a multi-phase civil war that took place between 1991 and 2001 as Yugoslavia tore itself apart along ethnic lines.
The conflict was very bloody, killing an estimated 140,000 people, according to the International Center for Transitional Justice, and included acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
While Maric can expect to serve any jail sentence in a Croatian jail, a number of Serb war criminals are doing their time in British prisons.
Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader convicted of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, Holland, will serve the rest of his prison sentence in the UK.
His conviction for genocide related to his responsibility for the murder of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.
Five men convicted of war crimes by the tribunals in the former Yugoslavia have been sent to British high-security prisons in the past.
They included former Bosnian-Serb general Radislav Krstic, who was slashed in the throat by Muslim inmates in Wakefield jail in 2010 (later transferred to a Polish prison).