KUALA LUMPUR - Former police commando Sirul Azhar Umar has a long, long wait in store from him at an Australian detention centre, if the story of former Serbian commander Dragan Vasiljkovic is anything to go by.
Vasiljkovic, a suspected war criminal has been in prison for more than nine years, fighting extradition to Croatia. He claims he will not be given the protection of the Geneva Convention if brought before a Croatian court martial.
Neil Williams, a lawyer for the Australian Government, has sought an assurance from Croatia that Vasiljkovic would be safe if he was deported to stand trial in Zagreb.
Australian media reported that Vasiljkovic was arrested by Australian police in Sydney in January 2006.
The Australian daily reported that the war crimes charges include commanding troops that tortured and killed prisoners of war; commanding a deadly assault on Glina in which civilians were killed, and, in 1993, of breaches of the Geneva Conventions during an assault by his troops at the town of Bruska near Benkovac.
Since being arrested, Vasiljkovic, who was a paramilitary commander during the Balkans war, has remained in an Australian prison.
The Australian also reported that the delays to the extradition have been caused by Vasiljkovic's legal challenges.
The 60-year-old, who was born in Belgrade and is now an Australian citizen, has denied the allegations of war crimes.
After the protracted legal battle, then Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare approved the extradition in November 2012.
In December last year, the Australian Federal Court rejected Vasiljkovic's latest appeal to avoid extradition. However, he is still in Australia.
Sirul's case could bear striking similarities to that of Vasiljkovic.
"An extradition process is quite complex even after the country granting extradition agrees to the request. Since he is facing the gallows upon his return to Malaysia, it is unlikely that Australia will extradite Sirul unless Malaysia can convince him otherwise," a source said.
USM criminologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat concurred, saying Sirul's extradition process would definitely take a long time.
"It could take at least two years but I feel that it (Sirul's case) will definitely take longer.
"Sirul's conviction, which comes with a death sentence, complicates things further," she said yesterday.
She said the only way the extradition could be expedited was if top Government leaders dealt directly with their Australian counterparts.
"Bear in mind, even refugees seeking asylum have to go through a long process. This is a convicted man facing the death sentence," he said.