News 15 Sep 16

Hague Tribunal Slams Serbia Again For Non-Cooperation

Judges at the UN court said that Belgrade is refusing to fulfil its obligations and transfer three members of Vojislav Seselj’s Serbian Radical Party for trial on witness intimidation charges.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Vjerica Radeta, one of the accused, on the far right, with Seselj third from right. Photo: Beta.

The trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, formally notified the UN court’s president Carmel Agius on Wednesday that Serbia is still refusing to fully cooperate and transfer the three wanted Radical Party members for trial in The Hague.

“Serbia’s continued non-compliance with its obligations obstructs the course of justice,” the trial chamber said in its motion.

The Higher Court in Belgrade ruled on May 18 that the three Radical Party members - Vjerica Radeta, Jovo Ostojic and Petar Jojic – could not be arrested and transferred to The Hague for trial because that would not be in line with the Serbian law on cooperation with the UN-backed war crimes court.

Radeta, Ostojic and Jojic are accused of being in contempt of court for threatening witnesses at their leader Vojislav Seselj’s trial at the ICTY.

They are also accused of blackmailing protected witnesses and offering them bribes of 500 euros not to testify at Seselj’s trial.

Seselj was acquitted of war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia in a first-instance verdict in March, but the case is now going to appeal.

According to the Belgrade court, Serbia can only arrest people wanted by the ICTY who are charged with war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.

However, in the past Serbia has transferred suspects to The Hague.

In its motion filed on Wednesday, the ICTY trial chamber noted that Serbia has also stopped filing regular biweekly reports on the case of the wanted Radicals that was also obliged to send to the Hague court.

According to the motion, the last time the ICTY received such a report was on May 18.

In June this year, in its regular report to the UN Security Council, the ICTY accused Serbia of violating cooperation agreements and undermining justice efforts by not arresting the three Radicals.

“Interference with the administration of justice strikes at the heart of what, together, we have painstakingly endeavoured to build since the birth of the Tribunal, and undermines the Tribunal’s ability to carry out its work efficiently and fairly,” court president Carmel Agius told the Security Council.

Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal is also one of the EU’s demands during Serbia’s accession talks - part of Chapter 23 of the EU legislation under discussion, which deals with the rule of law.

It is also expected that the ICTY will criticise Serbia again for its lack of cooperation in the UN court’s upcoming report due in October.

Belgrade has so far reacted angrily to the requests from The Hague, with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic sending a letter of protest to the ICTY demanding that the UN court treat Belgrade with more respect.

The three wanted Radical Party officials have told media on several occasions that they will never go to The Hague court voluntarily.

Seselj has also backed them, calling them “honourable citizens of Serbia”.

Radeta has been the vice-president of the new Serbian parliament which was elected earlier this year, at which Seselj became an MP again.

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