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War crimes court allows Seselj compassionate leave

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War crimes court allows Seselj compassionate leave


Still no verdict for Vojislav Seselj — it has been delayed repeatedly during his trial. It has been longer in coming than for any indictee at the UN War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The defendant’s behaviour and a dispute among judges contributed to this. Now they have released him temporarily to receive health treatment in Belgrade.

The charges against Seselj include murder, forced deportation, illegal imprisonment and torture on a political, racial or religious basis — of non-Serbs. He is accused of inciting others to commit war crimes in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s.

Prosecutors demand a 28-year prison sentence.

The only rulings against him have been for contempt of court, notably when he revealed names of protected witnesses.

He surrendered in February 2003, wanted on eight counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of violating the laws or customs of war. He said publicly the presiding judge’s only right was to perform oral sex on him, and he referred to the Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte as “the prostitute”.

His self-rendition immediately followed his triumphal re-election as president of the Serbian Radical Party which he founded in 1990. He is still its leader.

Associations of war rape victims are outraged that the judges in The Hague released Seselj, who spoke of being proud to defend what he called an honourable cause.

The cause was the promotion of Serbian nationalism in Bosnia and Croatia and capturing towns there. The cause was to drive out non-Serbs using massive destruction and terror.

The man once widely quoted as having said he would like to gouge out his rivals’ eyes with a rusty spoon pleaded not guilty on any of the charges.

Employing historical rhetoric that pre-dates and even helped to spark the First World War, in the 1990s he would say: “We will reunite Republic of Serbia, a Republic of Montenegro, a Republika Srpska and of Krajiana. We will create a Greater Serbia.”

He holds a Ph.D from Belgrade University’s Faculty of Law, from early in his political career.

Seselj was described by another war crimes indictee, the late President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic as “the personification of violence and primitivism”.

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