News 18 Sep 17

Serbia’s Seselj Mocks Hague Tribunal in Reality Show

After Serbian nationalist politician Vojsilav Seselj mocked the Hague Tribunal by posing as a judge on a reality TV show, the UN war crimes court issued a new warning over his upcoming appeal hearings.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Vojislav Seselj on TV Pink's reality show 'Zadruga'. Photo: TV Pink/printscreen.

The UN war crimes court in The Hague warned Vojislav Seselj on Monday that if he does not turn up for his appeal hearings, after failing to attend his trial verdict, it will assign him a defence lawyer whether he wants one or not.

The Hague Tribunal’s warning came after Seselj, the leader of the hardline nationalist Serbian Radical Party, yet again mocked the UN court by donning a judge’s robe and passing ‘sentences’ on a reality show on the pro-government TV Pink on Saturday.

“Tell me, is there a European Union flag around here somewhere? I want to know if I will have to burn it tonight,” Seselj said as he appeared on the show, entitled ‘Zadruga’ (‘The Cooperative’), referring to an incident last year when he burned the EU and NATO flags.

Seselj temporarily joined the show a day after a regular participant was arrested for allegedly killing his wife, well-known singer Jelena Marjanovic.

The nationalist politician talked openly about the case, revealing what he claimed were details from the murder investigation.

He then donned a robe similar to the ones worn by judges in The Hague and mediated between the reality show contestants.

However, his appearance on the show caused ire among some of his followers.

“The man lost his mind. For hours I watched his defence before the Hague Tribunal and thought he was a scholar,” one man wrote on Seselj’s Facebook page.

“I just hope this is nothing more than good trolling, because Seselj entering ‘The Cooperative’ means that the [Serbian Radical] Party is turning into a circus attraction,” said another comment.

But some defended the Radical Party leader: “All these ‘great moralists’ will of course tune in to TV Pink tomorrow and watch ‘The Cooperative’ - hypocrites,” said one supporter.

Seselj is awaiting the prosecution’s appeal in the case against him for wartime crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serbian region of Vojvodina after the Tribunal acquitted him on all counts in March last year.

He was found not guilty of persecution, deportation, torture, wanton destruction and plunder in the period from August 1991 to September 1993.

Seselj has been in Belgrade since being granted temporary release from detention in The Hague in November 2014 after on humanitarian grounds to undergo cancer treatment.

He did not appear for the verdict in his trial but has returned to political life in Serbia and has been elected as a member of parliament. He has vowed never to return to The Hague.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague said on Monday said that Seselj “has the right to be present at the upcoming [appeal] hearing and that his presence is required”.

But it noted that Seselj has said “he has no intention of coming to The Hague even for the rendering of the Appeal Judgement”.

It said that the appeals chamber “must take appropriate measures to ensure that his interests are represented at the upcoming appeal hearing in order to ensure the fair and expeditious conduct of the proceedings”, and so will appoint standby counsel to represent him if he does not come to court or arrange to appear via video link.

Seselj also appeared on another reality TV show in 2015 after his release for medical treatment.

When he appeared on an episode of ‘Farma’ (‘The Farm’), he was hailed by the convicted underground figure Kristijan Golubovic, who at the time was a frequent reality TV show participant.

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