News 13 Jan 14

Vojislav Seselj: ‘Free Me or Try Me Again’

Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj has asked the Hague Tribunal either to release him or restart the war crimes case against him from the beginning, alleging unjust treatment.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Pro-Seselj posters in Belgrade. Photo: BIRN

Seselj’s defence said on Friday that he should either be freed or tried again, in the interests of fairness and justice, after the court ordered a delay in the verdict in the case against the Serbian Radical Party boss, who has been in custody in The Hague since 2003.

“There is no interest [of justice] that could justify 11 years of detention without the rendering of a first-instance verdict,” the defence said in its motion to the international court.

The defence called on the Tribunal to reverse a decision it made on December 16 appointing a new judge to Seselj’s case after a previous judge was removed for alleged bias.

However, it said, “there is absolutely nothing that would compensate for the violation of the right to trial in a reasonable time”.

The court decided last month that it would resume the trial once the newly-appointed judge, Mandiaye Niang, has familiarised himself with the case.

The verdict in the case was initially scheduled for October 30, but it was cancelled after one of the judges, Frederik Harhoff, was removed over a controversial letter he wrote complaining about some of the international court’s rulings.

Harhoff was removed after Seselj filed a motion in July, claiming that the Danish judge was not impartial because he wanted to convict Serbs.

The allegations were sparked by Harhoff’s leaked letter, which criticised the court’s high-profile acquittals of Serbian and Croatian wartime commanders.

Seselj has been in custody since 2003, when he voluntarily surrendered to the Hague Tribunal, but his trial only started in November 2007, after several failed attempts and a hunger strike.

He is charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against the non-Serb population in Bosnia, Croatia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina between 1991 and 1994.

The verdict has not yet been rescheduled.

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