News 13 Jan 15

Hague Tribunal Refuses to Return Seselj to Jail

The Hague Tribunal rejected a prosecution request to put Serbian nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj, who was temporarily released from his war crimes trial for cancer treatment, back in custody.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Vojislav Seselj. Photo by BETA.

The trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on Tuesday dismissed a motion from chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz for Seselj’s temporary release to be revoked after the Serbian Radical Party leader said that he would never return to the UN-backed court to complete his trial.

The court said in its decision that Seselj had not so far breached the rules of his release.

After being freed and triumphantly returning to Belgrade in November last year to a rapturous welcome from his nationalist admirers, Seselj said that he would not agree to return to war crimes court 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.

In his appeal for the nationalist politician to be sent back to custody, Brammertz argued 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.

Since returning to Belgrade, Seselj has led nationalist protests and made a series of hardline statements that have angered war victims. His conduct was condemned in a European Parliament resolution which also called for him to be detained again.

“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 in December.

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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