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The president of the Hague tribunal this week rejected a request from Serb nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj to disqualify three appeals judges.
Judges Arlette Ramaroson, Mehmet Guney and Andresia Vaz were part of an appeals panel reviewing the second of Seselj’s three convictions for contempt of court.
In the case in question, the accused was found guilty in October 2011 of disclosing information in a book he authored that identified ten protected witnesses. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
According to court filings, in February 2012 Seselj filed an appeal brief that came in at over 33,000 words, nearly four times the limit. He was repeatedly ordered to re-file the brief to keep within the word limit, but failed do so.
In August 2012, appeals judges decided that Seselj had waived his right to appeal the October 2011 contempt conviction.
Seselj denounced their decision as “unprecedented, scandalous and draconian”, and claimed that judges Ramaroson, Guney and Vaz were “biased and harbour a kind of zealotry and a flagrant lack of objectivity” towards him.
He demanded that the three judges be removed from the appeals bench which is reviewing a third conviction of contempt against him. In this third case, Seselj was found guilty of failing to remove confidential information from his website, and sentenced to two years in prison in June 2012.
The president of the tribunal, Judge Theodor Meron, dismissed Seselj’s request in a written decision issued on January 10.
Judge Meron stated that the defendant had “failed to put forth credible information to substantiate his claim that these judges have either a personal interest in the current [contempt] case, or any association that affects their impartiality”.
He also noted that Seselj had not submitted any information to demonstrate “actual bias, or an appearance of bias” on the part of the three judges in question.
“Simply stating that a judge is biased because he or she ruled in a particular way is an insufficient basis for disqualification,” the judge concluded.
In his main criminal trial, Seselj is charged with nine counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity – including murder, torture and forcible transfer – in what prosecutors said was a campaign to expel the non-Serb population from parts of Croatia and Bosnia between August 1991 and September 1993.
The case is currently in the judgement phase, although no date has been announced for delivering a verdict.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.
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