News 01 Dec 14

Hague Prosecutors Demand Seselj’s Return to Jail

Prosecutors at the international war crimes court asked for Serbian nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj, released for cancer treatment, to be returned to custody after his hardline rhetoric sparked anger.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Vojislav Seselj. Photo: Beta.

The prosecution filed a motion to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on Monday demanding that Seselj’s temporary release be revoked after the Serbian Radical Party leader said that he will never return to the UN-backed court to complete his trial.

Chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said in the motion that the court’s “trust in Seselj’s conduct was without foundation”.

“He has clearly demonstrated that his health condition is no barrier to making unacceptable public statements that are inflammatory and insulting to victim communities. He has also made public statements that call into question the trial chamber’s assessment of the extremity of his health situation,” said Brammertz.

The Tribunal ordered Seselj’s temporary release of Seselj last month on humanitarian grounds, because of his poor health, but since returning to Belgrade, he has led nationalist protests and made a series of hardline statements that have angered war victims.

Brammertz said that Seselj should be returned to The Hague, then a hearing should be held to discuss “stringent conditions to regulate the terms of any future provisional release”.

Serbia and Croatia Row Over Seselj

Serbian officials have hit back at Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic after he cancelled his visit to Belgrade for an upcoming economic summit, citing the Serbian authorities’ alleged failure to adequately condemn Vojislav Seselj’s nationalist rhetoric since his release.

“Everybody knows that the Serbian authorities are not fond of such [nationalist] ideas [about a ‘Greater Serbia’], so there is no need to condemn it officially, because Croatia does not do that either,” Serbian labour minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Sunday.

“We do not believe that Croatian government is Ustasa [WWII-era Nazi-allied Croatian nationalist regime] because there are many people in Croatia who consider themselves to be Ustasa and wear Ustasa symbols, and the Croatian government does not disassociate itself from them,” Vulin said.

Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic said meanwhile that Zagreb’s foreign policy towards Belgrade will remain the same, but argued that the Serbian authorities should condemn Seselj’s hate speech.

Pusic said that the Milanovic visit was cancelled “in order not to fuel that kind of talk”.

“Bearing in mind the history of our region, it would be wise, helpful and good if the Serbian authorities distanced themselves from that kind of public speech,” Pusic said on Saturday, adding that it was known that Seselj’s temporary release was not Belgrade’s decision.

Milka Domanovic

 

Seselj said after his release that he would not voluntarily return to the UN-backed court in The Hague for the verdict in his trial and would stage protests against any attempt to send him back.

“There will be no voluntary return to The Hague for me,” he said.

The European parliament last week adopted a resolution urging the Tribunal to rethink its decision to temporarily release Seselj.

“The European parliament strongly condemns Seselj’s warmongering, incitement to hatred and encouragement of territorial claims and his attempts to derail Serbia from its European path,” said the resolution adopted by lawmakers in Strasbourg on Thursday.

Croatia has also condemned his release and called for him to be returned to The Hague.

Seselj had been in custody since 2003, when he voluntarily surrendered. He is on trial for wartime crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia.

The verdict in his case was scheduled for October last year, but was postponed after one of the judges in the trial was removed for alleged bias.

The new judge is expected to take until at least the end of June 2015 to familiarise himself with details of the case, causing yet another delay in the marathon trial.

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