Seselj Refuses Check-Up From Enemy Doctor

He also tells tribunal judges that his right to a fair trial has been violated.

Seselj Refuses Check-Up From Enemy Doctor

He also tells tribunal judges that his right to a fair trial has been violated.

Friday, 10 July, 2009

Vojislav Seselj, a Serb politican accused of war crimes, told the Hague tribunal this week he refused to be checked by a doctor who was also the personal physician of the president of Serbia because he could not trust him.

Seselj, on trial for his role in efforts to create a Greater Serbia by annexing parts of Bosnia and Croatia, also told the judges that his right to a fair trial had been “flagrantly violated”.

The trial started in November 2007 but was suspended in February this year at the prosecution’s request due to allegations that witnesses were being intimidated. It is not clear when it might resume.

Seselj, who has been in custody since 2003, claims that the true motive of the prosecutors in suspending the trial was that they were losing their case. He claimed the court had presented numerous false witnesses to avoid having to acquit him and said it should pay him damages for "all the suffering and six years spent in detention”.

At the hearing held this week, presiding judge Jean-Claude Antonetti told Seselj that the trial chamber was concerned about the state of his health and suggested he be checked by a specialist heart surgeon.

“The [tribunal’s] secretariat proposed an expert from the military medical academy in Belgrade. We thought that this would cause no problems. However … you claim that the doctor belongs to a political party which is an enemy of yours. I don't know how you found his political affiliation out, because he didn't come over to do politics, but rather to give his qualified medical opinion," said the judge.

He also wanted to know whether Seselj still refused to be checked by this doctor, and Seselj confirmed this.

“I received information that this doctor, Dragan Dincic, is a member of the [ruling] Democratic Party and that he is the personal doctor of the president of the republic, Boris Tadic,” said Seselj, who has in the past in fiery speeches and books attacked Tadic and his Democratic Party as traitors and stooges of the West.

“Given that he is Tadic’s personal physician, I can have no trust in him whatsoever and refuse any contact with him,” Seselj added.

Seselj stands accused of murder, torture and persecution for allegedly seeking to drive out non-Serbs from parts of Croatia and Bosnia between August 1991 and September 1993.

The defendant, who is partly conducting his own defence, took the chance this week to ask the trial chamber about the loss of certain video and audio recordings from the trial, a fact which he said he found suspicious.

“The leader in my case, Marina Raguz, informed me a few months ago that there was a problem with the video and audio recordings of January 8, 2009, when in a closed session protected witness 025 was being questioned by audio link. This is a very important witness and not a single answer by him can be heard on the video tape," Seselj said.

He said he had been told by the secretariat that "there is no video and audio recording of that testimony, but rather only the official transcripts”.

“You very well know that I do not trust the official transcripts at all, and I immediately started doubting that somebody deliberately destroyed the video and audio recordings to be able to freely forge the official transcripts. What else was I supposed to think?" said Seselj. "This problem brings my right to defence into question."

Judge Antonetti said that he had received an official letter from the secretariat "some ten days ago, stating that there is a certain technical problem".

Seselj asked the judge to order the secretariat to have that transcript immediately translated into Serbian.

He said his right to a fair and due trial had been “flagrantly violated”, and called on all members of the trial chamber to individually state their position on this issue.

"If you consider, Mr Seselj, that this trial is too long, you know that according to the practice of the European Court of Human Rights the accused may ask to be temporarily released if he considers that his detention has been unreasonably long,” Judge Antonetti said. “Why don't you do the same?"

“If my detention is unreasonably long, it is not only my own problem,” Seselj replied. “It is also a problem for this chamber. It must say whether my detention is reasonably long or not."

“You may ask that a country give you guarantees in accordance with the rules of this tribunal," Judge Antonetti noted.

Seselj then pointed out that the rules of the tribunal demand that in case of temporary release, the state where the accused stays should provide guarantees as to his whereabouts.

"When it comes to that guarantee, you know very well that there is not a single country in the world that would provide its guarantees on my behalf," Seselj replied.

“My detention will obviously go on for some 30 years," he said.

Velma Saric is an IWPR-trained reporter in Sarajevo.

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