Prosecution Says Seselj Incapable of Defending Himself

(TU No 454, 26-May-06)

Prosecution Says Seselj Incapable of Defending Himself

(TU No 454, 26-May-06)

Friday, 26 May, 2006
With Seselj's trial scheduled to start in a little over four months, prosecutors argue that appointing defence counsel is necessary both to protect the witnesses they plan to call and to prevent any possible delay to the start of the proceedings.

Seselj is charged with extermination and murder, persecution, deportation and the forcible transfer of non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina from 1991 to 1995. He is also accused of imprisonment, torture, cruel treatment and other inhumane acts against Muslims and Croats, along with wanton destruction and plunder of private and public property.

As the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, SRS, Seselj's wartime political platform included the establishment of a "Greater Serbia" uniting Montenegro, Macedonia and parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina in a single Serb state.

He insists on his right to represent himself in court and currently only has a "standby" defence counsel, Tjarda Eduard van der Spoel, with whom he has refused to cooperate.

In their latest submission on the matter, the prosecutors focus on a number of aspects of what they describe as Seselj's "non-cooperation" over the past three years.

They complain that he has been "obstructionist" and that he has filed "frivolous motions and claims" and made "extremely offensive" statements and submissions.

They further suggest that he has "clearly demonstrated that he is not capable to defend himself", because he breaks all the tribunal's rules pertaining to the length and format of motions, has disclosed sensitive information and refuses to use any of the electronic tools available to him.

The prosecutors allege that Seselj "thrives on creation of scandal, conspiracies and publicity" and that he has stated that the tribunal provides a forum for the defence of Serb nationalism.

Using the example of the trial of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, which ended prematurely with the accused's death in March this year, the prosecutors argue that if Seselj were to be allowed to continue to defend himself as he has been doing, the focus would shift to "political/historical issues important to the accused", rather than the charges themselves.

"Rather than promoting reconciliation, the process polarises the different ethnic communities more," they argue.

The prosecutors also say that Seselj has given information about protected witnesses to members of his party. They describe a monitored telephone call made from the tribunal's detention unit in June 2005, in which one of Seselj's party associates allegedly promised to "disable" a potential witness who was "an enemy of the country".

To ensure the integrity of the court, the prosecutors say Seselj should have a defence counsel who should have the exclusive right to submit material on behalf of the accused.

In support of their argument that such a decision would enable a fair trial, the prosecutors point to decisions in other cases at the tribunal in which counsel has been imposed against the wishes of an accused.

The prosecution's last motion to have a lawyer assigned to Seselj was turned down in 2003.
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