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Seselj Returns to Prison Cell

Defendant ended hunger strike after extracting several concessions from the tribunal.
By Lisa Clifford
Serbian ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj is back in his cell at the Hague tribunal’s Detention Unit after doctors declared him fit enough to return to prison.

Seselj ended a month-long hunger strike on December 8, when the court granted him the right to represent himself at his upcoming trial along with several other demands.

He lost at least 25 kilogrammes during his protest and doctors had warned that he could die within two weeks – prompting the trial chamber to order that he be force-fed should his condition worsen.

Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, SRS, is on trial for planning and inciting the extermination and murder, persecution, deportation and forcible transfer of non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia from1991-1995.

His trial was adjourned indefinitely during the protest and will not resume until he is fully recovered.

Seselj still enjoys significant support in Serbia, and his hunger strike drew much attention to the Serbian ultra-nationalists’ cause.

Newspapers in Serbia hailed his victory against the war crimes tribunal with the daily Glas running a front-page article under the headline, “Seselj checkmates the Hague”. Kurir, also a daily, featured a piece with the headline, “Victory against the Hague and hunger”.

His hunger strike coincided with campaigning for the January 21 Serbian parliamentary elections, sparking speculation that it was at least partially politically motivated. The SRS is currently the largest party in parliament with approximately one third of the seats, and Seselj is their leading candidate. Under Serbian law, he is still able to run in the elections, because although indicted he has not been convicted.

SRS deputy president Tomislav Nikolic this week described Seselj as “a global symbol of struggle” and said his party was campaigning with new enthusiasm.

Lisa Clifford is an IWPR editor.

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