News 10 Sep 13

Uncertainty Continues Over Vojislav Seselj Verdict

Nearly two weeks after the Hague Tribunal removed judge Frederik Harhoff from Seselj’s case for alleged bias, it remains unclear how the Serbian Radical Party chief’s trial will progress.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, has yet to make a decision about whether the verdict in Serbian nationalist politician Seselj’s long-running war crimes trial, which was set for October 30 before the Harhoff controversy erupted, will be announced as scheduled.

In the latest document issued last week by the ICTY’s acting president, judge Carmel Agius, the court said it would reconvene a panel to mull a motion filed by the court’s chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz to reconsider the disqualification of Harhoff from the trial.

Harhoff was removed for alleged bias after Seselj filed a motion in July, claiming that the Danish judge was not impartial because he wanted to convict Serbs.

The allegations were sparked by a leaked letter written by Harhoff, in which he criticised the court’s high-profile acquittals of Serbian and Croatian wartime commanders.

“In the letter, Judge Harhoff has demonstrated a bias in favour of conviction such that a reasonable observer properly informed would reasonably apprehend bias,” the court’s decision said.

The presiding judge in the Seselj case, Jean-Claude Antonetti has meanwhile submitted his own “urgent request” for clarification about the decision to disqualify Harhoff.

However Antonetti’s email was also leaked, inadvertently revealing the contents of a memorandum that Harhoff wrote to the court in July when his own private letter was made public by international media.

In his memorandum, Harhoff denied any bias against Seselj.

“I do not have, or have ever had, any personal interest whatsoever in the trial against the accused [Seselj] and I have not had any association with him or anyone else that might affect my impartiality in the case,” he wrote.

“I therefore do not believe that my email contains any element that might cast doubts about my impartiality in this trial,” he added.

Seselj is charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against the non-Serb population in Bosnia, Croatia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina between 1991 and 1994.

The Serbian Radical Party has expressed confidence that the judges have already made the decision to acquit Seselj and that his release is inevitable.

“The verdict is already decided, it just needs to become public... Seselj is coming [back to Serbia], as any other decision is impossible,” his legal adviser Zoran Krasic told a press conference in Belgrade last week.

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