Seselj Case Set to Resume

Additional witnesses to be called to testify when case reopens in January.

Seselj Case Set to Resume

Additional witnesses to be called to testify when case reopens in January.

Tuesday, 15 December, 2009
Judges this week ordered the resumption of the trial of Vojislav Seselj, former president of the Serbian Radical Party, who is representing himself on war crimes charges at the Hague tribunal.

Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti called for the Office of the Prosecution, OTP to arrange its remaining witness testimony on January 12, 2010, when the trial is due to continue.

The judges also announced that they would call seven additional witnesses to testify, in addition to any final statements by witnesses called by the OTP.

According to the judge, six of the remaining OTP witnesses wish to testify on behalf of the accused, as opposed to the prosecution. In turn, the chamber decided it was in the interest of justice for the witnesses to be examined by the court.

Judge Antonetti also confirmed on November 24 that the trial chamber had dismissed the motion by the OTP requesting Seselj seek additional legal representation.

The judges also dismissed the request for any additional trial hours for the prosecution.

Seselj is accused of responsibility for crimes committed against Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb populations in regions throughout Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia between 1991 and 1993.

According to the indictment, Seselj was part of a joint criminal enterprise that planned, ordered, committed or aided in the planning of persecutions of non-Serb civilian populations in order to create a Serb-dominated state.

Seselj made inflammatory speeches in the media, the indictment says, and encouraged the creation of a homogenous “Greater Serbia” by violence, thereby participating in war propaganda and the incitement of hatred towards non-Serb people.

Seselj was indicted on February 14, 2003. The trial began on November 27, 2006, but without Seselj who had started a hunger strike on November 10 and refused to appear in court. The trial recommenced on November 7, 2007.

On February 11, 2009, the trial chamber adjourned the proceedings after prosecutors alleged that the accused had intimidated a number of prosecution witnesses.

The trial chamber delivered its decision on November 24 by handing down a single, consolidated decision regarding all the pending motions.

“We’ve filed the decision this way because we’d like the trial to commence in the best way possible,” Judge Antonetti told the court.

The judges’ decision asked the prosecution to withdraw its remaining three witnesses, and to confirm the withdrawal with the court within eight days of the hearing, in order to speed up proceedings.

The judges announced that the OTP and Seselj would be prohibited from contacting witnesses called by the trial chamber unless expressly instructed to do so.

“If you wish to contact witnesses, you must [tell] the chamber of the matter and file a motion with reasons for contact,” Judge Antonetti told the court.

He also added that while the trial chamber was subpoenaing witnesses, there would be no separate investigations for the remaining testimonies.

Judge Antonetti also ordered Seselj to communicate to the court copies of any future publications in his name that were related to his case.

In July 2009, Seselj was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment for revealing the names and protected details of witnesses in a book he wrote. Seselj’s appeal against the judgement is still pending.

“If you publish a new book, disclose the book,” Judge Antonetti told the accused on November 24, stressing that the court registry would need to check the publication for any confidential information related to protected witnesses.

Seselj said that such a decision was “unprecedented in the history of mankind” and was a form of “censorship” over his books.

Judge Frederick Harhoff denied that the court was guilty of censorship by requesting copies of his manuscripts.

“You were convicted of publishing in a book things that should not have been published,” Judge Harhoff said. “We need to check to see if information exists that cannot be published.”

Julia Hawes is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.
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