DEN HAAG | 16.03.2016.

TRIBUNAL BOWS TO VOJISLAV SESELJ'S WISHES FOR THE THIRD TIME

The Trial Chamber has decided not to order the Serb authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the accused is back in The Hague to hear his verdict. If Seselj is willing to follow the proceedings via video link, the Trial Chamber will be happy to organize it

The Trial Chamber led by French judge Antonetti has revoked its order to ensure that the accused Vojislav Seselj is brought back to The Hague to hear his verdict, slated to be delivered on 31 March 2016. Instead, the judges have told Seselj to inform the Tribunal’s Registrar in writing whether he wants to follow the hearing via video link from Belgrade.

On 12 February 2016, the Trial Chamber ordered the Serbian authorities to take all necessary
measures to ensure the return of the accused to The Hague. In their decision today, the judges have justified the reversal of the order citing health reasons. Seselj, the Trial Chamber has explained, will thus not interrupt his treatment in Serbia. Details of the treatment have not been disclosed.
Judge Niang from Senegal attached to the decision a very strongly worded dissenting opinion. In Judge Niang’s view, the decision not to press for Seselj's attendance at the hearing is a ‘poor way to conceal the triumph of the accused’. Seselj has always been vocal about his intention not to return to The Hague if he were provisionally released, Judge Niang noted. Moreover, the Senegalese judge stressed that the Serbian authorities failed to ‘show any zeal’ for the enforcement of the Tribunal’s order to arrest and surrender the accused.
Judge Niang believes that the judgment should be rendered on 31 March 2016, even though the accused will not be present, but the Trial Chamber should not bless his absence. It should be clear that he is not in court because he has refused to appear before the Tribunal and because the Serbian authorities have failed to take adequate measures to comply with the Tribunal’s order.
The Tribunal thus capitulated before the Serbian Radical Party leader for the third time. The first capitulation before Seselj, who faces charges of crimes against humanity in Croatia, Vojvodina and Bosnia and Herzegovina, happened in December 2006, when Seselj went on a hunger strike to force the judges to revoke their decision to appoint a lawyer who was to defend him, because Seseslj was persistently obstructing the trial and disclosing the identity of protected witnesses.
The Tribunal capitulated for the second time in November 2014, when the judges decided to provisionally release Seselj without setting any term and without obtaining any guarantees for his return, motivated by their fear that the accused would die in the Detention Unit awaiting the judgment in his case.