News 31 Mar 17

Interpol Issues Arrest Notices for Wanted Serbian Radicals

Interpol has issued ‘red notices’ for the arrest of three members of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party who are wanted by the UN’s war crimes tribunal for contempt of court.

BIRN
Belgrade
Vjerica Radeta, one of the three wanted Radicals. Photo: Serbian Radical Party.

Interpol has issued red notices – the closest thing to an international arrest warrant – for Serbian Radical Party members Petar Jojic, Jovo Ostojic and Vjerica Radeta, the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague said on Friday.

They are accused of contempt of court for interfering with witnesses during the trial of their leader, Vojislav Seselj, who was acquitted of war crimes charges last year, although the case has now gone to appeal.

“Petar Jojic, Jovo Ostojic and Vjerica Radeta have been charged with contempt of court for allegedly having threatened, intimidated, offered bribes to, or otherwise interfered with two witnesses in the trial againstVojislav Seselj and a related contempt case against him,” the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia said in a statement.

The warrants came into force last Friday, the statement said.

But Serbia again refused to extradite them to The Hague, citing a ruling last year by the Belgrade Higher Court, which said that the Serbian authorities can only arrest people wanted by the Hague Tribunal who are charged with war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.

“We have to respect the [Belgrade] court’s decision, no matter whether we like it or not,” Serbian deputy prime minister Rasim Ljajic told media on Tuesday.

“We can’t behave as we like if we want to respect democratic principles,” said Ljajic, who is also the head of Serbia’s council for cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.

The Serbian government has also cited security reasons for not arresting the three Radicals, suggesting that detaining them would cause unrest in the country.

Radeta is an MP in the Serbian parliament, as is her leader Seselj, who is also running for the country’s presidency in Sunday’s elections.

Radeta took to Twitter on Tuesday to mock the Interpol announcement.

“As Seselj will become president in the second round [of the elections], he will pardon me and Jojic, so the Interpol red notices will not matter,” she said.

The UN court issued international arrest warrants for Jojic, Ostojic and Radeta last October.

“The Tribunal has also repeatedly raised the matter with the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly,” its statement said.

“Most recently, in a letter dated 1 March 2017, [Tribunal] president [Carmel] Agius called upon the UN Security Council to ensure accountability, to prevent impunity, and to take the measures necessary to secure Serbia’s compliance with the Tribunal’s orders, consistent with its obligations, and appealed to member states to secure the arrest and transfer of the accused,” it added.

All three wanted Radicals have said they will not go to The Hague to face the charges voluntarily.

Seselj has also refused to return to The Hague since he was released for cancer treatment in 2014, and was not in court for the verdict in his trial.

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