Serbian warlord killer's fate in the hands of justice minister Lamola

04 February 2020 - 19:52 By Aron Hyman
Serbian fugitive Dobrosav Gavric at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court in December 2011.
Serbian fugitive Dobrosav Gavric at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court in December 2011.
Image: Esa Alexander

When he was a 23-year-old junior police officer, Dobrosav Gavric walked up to Serbian warlord “Arkan” and shot him and two other people in a Belgrade hotel lobby.

Now, 20 years later, with the stroke of a pen, SA justice minister Ronald Lamola will be able to return Gavric to his native land to serve a 35-year jail sentence.

Gavric fled Serbia after his conviction on charges of aggravated murder in October 2006 and entered SA under the false name Sasa Kovacevic. He came into the country via Italy and Ecuador in 2007.

Last week the Cape Town Magistrate's Court found Gavric extraditable — a victory for both the SA and the Serbian court systems after he attempted every means of avoiding jail in Serbia.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the decision came “despite his protestations that his prosecution, conviction and sentence were politically motivated and that he feared for his life should he be returned to Serbia”.

“The court left those allegations to the hands of the minister of justice and correctional services to give them proper consideration,” said Ntabazalila.

“Gavric is remanded into custody to await the decision of the minister with regard to his surrender to the Republic of Serbia.”

Gavric murdered Arkan — real name Željko Ražnatović — at the start of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, a UN court that dealt with war crimes during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s.

Željko 'Arkan' Ražnatović with his Serb Volunteer Guard, or 'Tigers', during the Yugoslav Wars. He was shot dead by Dobrosav Gavric before standing trial.
Željko 'Arkan' Ražnatović with his Serb Volunteer Guard, or 'Tigers', during the Yugoslav Wars. He was shot dead by Dobrosav Gavric before standing trial.
Image: Ron Haviv / VII Photo / Wikipedia

Arkan was to be indicted for his participation in and oversight of crimes against humanity. His Serb Volunteer Guard was accused of atrocities including mass executions of non-Serbs.

Gavric's real identity became known to SA authorities after he was injured in a drive-by shooting while driving underworld boss Cyril Beeka's car near the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in March 2011.

Beeka died in the incident, but Gavric survived with a chest wound.

“He was arrested on December 27 2011 and later appeared at Cape Town Magistrate's Court, where he was remanded in custody pending an extradition enquiry. On December 29 2011, a request was received from the Republic of Serbia for his extradition,” said Ntabazalila.

“Shortly after his court appearance in Cape Town, Gavric applied for asylum in SA, but the application was refused. The matter ended up in the Constitutional Court, that found that he was excluded from refugee status.”

He said that due to the ongoing delays, the Serbian government sent a new request for Gavric's surrender.

“The NPA welcomes the successful outcome of the extradition process,” he said.

TimesLIVE previously reported that Gavric lived a life of understated opulence in a luxury apartment overlooking a yacht basin at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town with his wife and two daughters.

According to a 2012 judgment denying Gavric's appeal against the court's refusal to grant him bail, Gavric is considered a serious flight risk.

“That the appellant is capable of travelling the world cannot be gainsaid. His original flight to Ecuador from Serbia via Italy on a false passport is but one example thereof,” read the Western Cape High Court judgment delivered by acting judge AJ Stelzner.

“While living in SA, he travelled on a number of occasions to Ecuador and to other South American countries, namely Peru and Cuba. His ability to do so once again, on some other false passport, should he be released on bail is apparent.” 


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