News 02 Dec 14

Seselj Rejects Return to Hague Tribunal Jail

Serbian war crimes defendant Vojislav Seselj, temporarily freed for cancer treatment, vowed not to go back to the Hague Tribunal voluntarily after the prosecution demanded his return to custody.

Milka Domanovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Vojislav Seselj. Photo: BETA.

“Vojislav Seselj will not answer the panic cries of the Hague Tribunal,” the nationalist leader’s Serbian Radical Party said after the prosecution at the UN-backed court said on Monday that he should be sent back to detention.

The prosecution filed a motion to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia demanding Seselj’s temporary release be revoked, saying that “he has expressly stated that he will not return to the Tribunal”.

“He has clearly demonstrated that his health condition is no barrier to making unacceptable public statements that are inflammatory and insulting to victim communities. He has also made public statements that call into question the trial chamber’s assessment of the extremity of his health situation,” said the chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz.

The Serbian Radical Party said however that the Hague prosecution request was “a political order carried by Serge Brammertz in the name of the regimes in Belgrade and Zagreb”.

“The return of Vojislav Seselj caused total confusion in the ranks of the [Serbian] regime, and it is clear that Serge Brammertz acts as a spokesperson of [Serbian Prime Minister] Aleksandar Vucic,” the party said.

Since his release, Seselj has vowed to oust his former party ally Vucic from power and has infuriated the Croatian leadership with his hardline nationalist statements about creating a ‘Greater Serbia’.

Rasim Ljajic, the head of Serbia’s National Council for Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said that the Belgrade authorities will wait for the Hague Tribunal’s decision about returning Seselj to custody before deciding how to act.

“Once the decision is made, we’ll see what we should do, and until then, we do not want to deal with it,” Ljajic told Serbian public broadcaster RTS on Monday.

Serbian labour minister Aleksandar Vulin alleged that Seselj was released in order to destabilise Serbia, but said that the Hague Tribunal should not demand his return to custody in order to avoid stirring up unrest.

“I expect they [the Tribunal] will say: ‘You have a law on cooperation with The Hague, arrest him.’ He will then try to gather people [for protests], to make conflicts with the police,” Vulin told RTS on Tuesday.

“I ask the trial chamber - leave him in Serbia. I know you are disappointed with his poor performance [in failing to destabilise Serbia] - he could not do anything or change anything. Leave him now, do not make greater trouble among Serbs,” he said.

Croatian officials meanwhile welcomed the prosecution’s request to the international court to revoke Seselj’s release.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said that he expects the Serbian authorities to return Seselj to custody and that he wished that Belgrade officials would distance themselves from the nationalist leader’s “hate speech”.

“I just wanted people there [in Serbia] to say that what this man is saying is evil, nothing more than that,” Milanovic said on Monday during a visit to Bosnia.

Croatian President Ivo Jospovic said that Seselj’s statements since his release had mocked international justice.

“That is why I am glad the Hague prosecution reacted. I do not know what the decision [of the court] will be, but this is a message to those who would continue to use such rhetoric, and to the Serbian authorities to react to similar provocations,” Josipovic said on Monday, Croatian media reported.

Josipovic has already complained directly to the Hague Tribunal about Seselj’s release. But the president of the UN-backed court, Theodor Meron, said that the decision to release him should be respected because it was made for health reasons.

“I think, from a rule-of-law standpoint, it is important to respect decisions made by judges, especially those made on humanitarian grounds,” Meron said.

The European parliament last week adopted a resolution urging the Tribunal to rethink its decision to temporarily release Seselj and Croatian parliament has also adopted declaration condemning his release.

Seselj, who is on trial for wartime crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, had been in custody since 2003, when he voluntarily surrendered.

The verdict in his case was scheduled for October last year, but was postponed after one of the judges in the trial was removed for alleged bias.

The new judge is expected to take until at least the end of June 2015 to familiarise himself with details of the case, causing yet another delay in the marathon trial.

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