Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj’s bid to have his long-running trial discontinued was rejected by Hague tribunal judges this week, who found that the accused failed to prove that his rights have been violated.
In mid-July, the tribunal released Seselj’s 117-page request, which was written in Serbian Cyrillic but translated into English. In it, Seselj states that his right to be tried in a reasonable amount of time has been violated, and calls the current situation “incomprehensible, scandalous and inappropriate”.
Since his surrender to the tribunal in 2003, Seselj has insisted on representing himself and has vowed on numerous occasions to “destroy” the tribunal.
He is charged with nine counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity – including murder, torture and forcible transfer – for atrocities carried out in an effort to expel the non-Serb population from parts of Croatia and Bosnia between August 1991 and September 1993. He remains leader of the Serbian Radical Party, SRS, based in Belgrade.
Seselj’s criminal trial has endured repeated delays since it officially began in November 2007, a full year after the original trial date was postponed due to the accused’s hunger strike. The defence phase of the proceedings has yet to begin and Seselj has indicated that he won’t bring any witnesses to testify on his behalf.
In parallel proceedings, the accused was convicted of contempt and sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2009 for revealing details about protected prosecution witnesses in one of the books he authored.
He faced similar charges in a recently concluded second trial, in relation to 11 protected prosecution witnesses. A third case – initiated at the end of May - relates to confidential material he allegedly failed to remove from his website. A date for that trial has yet to be set.
The judges’ recent decision regarding the continuation of his criminal trial is currently only available in French, but according to a press release, the bench found that “there is no predetermined threshold with regard to the time period beyond which a trial may be considered unfair on account of undue delay” and also argued that Seselj “failed to provide concrete proof of abuse of process”.
Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.