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Seselj on Hunger Strike

By Katherine Boyle in The Hague and Merdijana Sadovic (TU No 477, 17-Nov-06)
Seselj began his hunger strike on November 10, according to his political associates in the Serbian Radical Party, SRS. They say he is also refusing to take his medication for asthma, hypertension and stomach ulcers.

The SRS has told media in the Balkans that Seselj will only stop his hunger strike on condition his wife is allowed to visit him; he continues to be allowed to represent himself; all court orders and documents are delivered on paper in Serbian; and his standby defence counsel is removed.

In their motion, the prosecution has asked that the commander of the tribunal’s detention unit immediately file a report on whether these media reports are true and if they have portrayed Seselj’s demands accurately.

If the reports are determined to be correct, the prosecution is asking that Seselj undergo a medical examination to determine the current status of his health and how it could change should he continue his hunger strike.

If the physician determines that Seselj will be physically incapable of representing himself, the prosecution asked that permanent defence counsel be assigned to his case, describing his hunger strike as improperly obstructing legal proceedings.

The prosecution described Seselj as completely unwilling “to abide by legally binding decisions” of the tribunal.

Seselj has already lost the right to represent himself once due to his obscene courtroom outbursts, but that right was reinstated on October 23 when the appeals chamber determined he had not received proper warning that it might be taken away.

The prosecution has called his hunger strike another form of “obstructionist behaviour”, which could prevent an expeditious trial.

Speaking at a regular press conference in The Hague this week, the tribunal’s spokesperson Refik Hodzic said it was not true that visits by Seselj's family and friends had been banned.

He also said that "legal advisors" Seselj wants to have certified do not meet the criteria stipulated by the tribunal's rules.

Hodzic confirmed that the accused was refusing to take food from the detention centre, but noted that he "cannot comment on whether Seselj might be taking other food" in his cell.

He also said there are no indications that the defendant’s health has deteriorated.

Seselj’s latest move was greeted by his supporters back home as a heroic deed.

Belgrade Law School professor Kosta Cavoski described Seselj as “a victim of the tribunal whose rights are constantly trampled”.

SRS deputy chairwoman Gordana Pop Lazic told journalists that Seselj “went on a hunger strike for the first time in 1984 fighting against [former Yugoslav president Josip Broz] Tito and now when he is 52, he is on a hunger strike again, but this time against the New World Order".

Seselj, a close ally of the late Yugoslav president Slobadan Milosevic, is charged with the extermination and murder, persecution, deportation and the forcible transfer of non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia from 1991 to 1995.

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