News 20 Sep 17

Vojislav Seselj Rejects Warning From Hague Tribunal

Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj dismissed the Hague Tribunal’s warning that it will assign him a defence lawyer whether he wants one or not if he fails to turn up for his appeal hearings.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Vojislav Seselj duringa protest in support of Donald Trump last year. Photo: Beta.

Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the hardline nationalist Serbian Radical Party, said on Wednesday that he will not return to the Hague Tribunal voluntarily and that the war crimes court does not have the authority to assign him a defence lawyer without his permission, as it has vowed to do.

Seselj, whose acquittal for war crimes is being appealed by the prosecution, told the Serbian media that the Tribunal can only assign him a “stand-by attorney” who does not have the right to speak on his behalf.

"I was available [at The Hague] for 12 years and they couldn’t prove any crime, they were unable to convict me," Seselj said, according to Beta news agency.

He reaffirmed that he will not be returning to custody unless he is “extradited by the [ruling] Progressive Party regime and [Serbian President] Aleksandar Vucic”.

The UN war crimes court in The Hague warned 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 Tribunal acquitted him in March last year of committing wartime crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serbian region of Vojvodina.

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 on humanitarian grounds to undergo cancer treatment.

He then returned to political life in Serbia and has been elected as a member of parliament.

He did not appear for the verdict in his trial and has repeatedly vowed never to return to The Hague.

Seselj also 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.

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