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30 August 2016

Hague Prosecution Challenges Vojislav Seselj Acquittal

Denis Dzidic BIRN BiH Sarajevo
The prosecution at the UN court in The Hague has filed an appeal against the verdict acquitting the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Seselj, of crimes against humanity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia.
In an 80-page appeal that was made public on Tuesday, the prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY said that serious legal and factual errors were made at Seselj’s trial and that he should be found guilty.

“The gravity of the crimes, as well as numerous aggravating factors merit a sentence of 28 years of imprisonment, as requested by the prosecution at trial,” it said in the appeal.

If the verdict cannot be reversed and Seselj convicted, the ICTY prosecutors called for a retrial by the Mechanism for International Tribunals, MICT, the institution established to wrap up the work of the ICTY as it closes down.

“The interest of justice, including for the victim community and the international community, and the legacy of the ICTY and the MICT require the appeals chamber’s intervention,” the appeal said.

The prosecution alleged that the trial chamber did not provide any reasons for its conclusion that Seselj did not participate in a joint criminal enterprise and in encouraging crimes during wartime, and that it did not properly evaluate all the evidence.

The ICTY acquitted Seselj in March this year of all nine counts in the indictment accusing him of committing crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Serbian region of Vojvodina during the war.

He was found not guilty of persecution, deportation, torture, wanton destruction and plunder in the period from August 1991 to September 1993.

The verdict said that Seselj’s Serbian Radical Party recruited volunteers known as the Seseljevci (‘Seselj’s Men’) who were sent to fight in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.

But it argued that Seselj was no longer responsible for their criminal actions after they became integrated into the Yugoslav People’s Army or the Bosnian Serb Army.

The judge also said the prosecution failed to prove that there was a widespread and systematic attack on non-Serb civilians during the indictment period.

The prosecution’s appeal said that “one of the most disturbing errors” at the trial was the failure to properly examine evidence that proves this.

“The victims and the public should be able to understand how the ICTY – after more than 20 years of existence – could arrive at the stunning conclusion that there was no widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population in Croatia or [Bosnia and Herzegovina] when the massive crimes committed during the ethnic cleansing campaign were the reason for the ICTY’s creation,” it said.

Since his release, Seselj has returned to political life in Serbia and has been elected as a member of parliament.
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