News 10 Jul 14

Hague Tribunal Refuses to Free Vojislav Seselj

After weeks of speculation about the possible release of Serbian Radical Party leader Seselj before the verdict in his war crimes trial, the UN-backed court said he must remain in custody.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Vojislav Seselj in court.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia said on Thursday that it had decided to “terminate the process of provisional release for the accused”.

The court had been considering the possibility of releasing Seselj, who is on trial for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Bosnia, Croatia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina, until the verdict in his case because of his poor health and because he has been in detention since 2003.

The court made its decision after seeking opinions from Serbia and the Netherlands, it said without giving further details.

The decision sparked an angry reaction from the nationalist politician’s allies.

Zoran Krasic, a member of his legal team, said that it was “just one more piece of proof that the Hague Tribunal is a failed court”.

Krasic said that it was “one of many illegal and wrong decisions in Seselj’s case”, which include the long period that the accused politician has spent in detention since surrendering to the Tribunal in 2003.

The court had asked the Serbian government on if it could provide a set of security guarantees if Seselj was given conditional release, including ensuring that he remained in his house and did not escape.

But Seselj insisted he would not accept any rules laid down by the court and would continue campaigning outspokenly for his nationalist cause.

He declared that he would return to Serbian politics, hold rallies, give interviews to media and criticise the Hague Tribunal as an illegal court.

Last Friday, the Tribunal gave a three-day deadline to Seselj to have another say on the issue. But he told the court on Tuesday that he “does not intend to and will not be making a submission”.

Krasic argued that the proposed release was just a type of house arrest, which is “not in line with any existing law”.

The verdict in Seselj’s case was initially scheduled for October 30 last year, but it was postponed after one of the judges in the trial was removed for alleged bias.

The ICTY last month turned down Seselj’s appeal against the appointment of a new judge, in which he called to be freed or retried.

It is still unknown when his verdict will be handed down because the new judge is still familiarising himself with the case.

Seselj voluntarily surrendered to the Hague Tribunal in 2003, but his trial only started in November 2007, after several failed attempts and a hunger strike. In 2013, he was also diagnosed with cancer.

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Background

Timeline: Cases for War Crimes in Pec Villages

Timeline of events in the case against 13 former Serb fighters charged with committing war crimes in the villages of Cuska, Zahac, Ljubenic and Pavlan in Kosovo in 1999.

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