News 18 Nov 14

Seselj Release Alarms Croatian Leaders

President and Foreign Minister say early temporary release of Vojislav Seselj is both worrying and destablising for the region - and represents a setback for the idea of international justice.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic. | Photo: Flickr

Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic on Monday criticised the temporary release of the war-crime suspect and Serbian ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj.

Pusic characterized Seselj as a "lunatic element in the region", adding that she would warn the European Union about his release from prison in The Hague.

The ICTY released Seselj because he is suffering from cancer and because the verdict in his marathon trial is not expected until late 2015.

Pusic said the release of the leader of the Serbian Radical party would "primarily harm Serbia, which currently has a crazy war criminal on its streets. But for us it is important because it is a neighbouring country that has embarked on the European path,” she commented.

Pusic added that Seselj openly “threatens both Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is less stable, and from that standpoint is a potentially disturbing factor”.

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic also condemned the move, and has written a stern letter to the Hague tribunal president, Theodor Meron.

"The cases of Vojislav Seselj and [former Serbian leader Slobodan] Milosevic who were indicted for war crimes by the Hague tribunal but whose trials were not completed represent a defeat of justice and international law, causing the public to lose confidence in the international judiciary," Josipovic said on Monday.

Although the release of Seselj for medical treatment is within the tribunal's jurisdiction, Josipovic said he felt obliged to react "as president of a state on whose territory and against whose citizens Seselj committed crimes.

"To achieve justice and public confidence, especially those of victims, in international justice, it is essential that every case ends with a judgment in a reasonable time, either a conviction or an acquittal," Josipovic stated.

"Seselj again speaks with hatred and has renewed his ideology with statements and speeches... an ideology that left behind a number of crimes, death, destruction and immense suffering," Josipovic added.

Josipovic said the release undermind the very idea of international justice, since it "causes fear among victims [of war crimes] and witnesses".

Seselj returned to Belgrade on November 12 for cancer treatment after spending more than 11 years at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, on trial for war crimes committed in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia.

At a rally on Saturday in Belgrade, more than 3,000 people gathered to celebrate his return.

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