UN court orders alleged Serb war criminal Seselj back to cell

30th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

The UN Yugoslav war crimes tribunal on Monday revoked the provisional release of ailing Serb ultra-nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj after he vowed not to return to the court.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) "orders the trial chamber to immediately revoke Seselj's provisional release and order his return to the United Nations Detention Unit," in The Hague, court documents said.

The tribunal in November allowed Seselj to return home to Serbia for cancer treatment pending an ICTY verdict after a marathon trial for alleged war crimes during the Balkan wars.

Since his release, 60-year-old Seselj has repeatedly lashed out at the tribunal, vowing not to return for his sentencing or to serve any time, as well as resuming his poisonous nationalist rhetoric.

Serbia now has the uncomfortable obligation of arresting the publicity-seeking Seselj and handing him over to the ICTY.

But Belgrade reacted angrily to Monday's order and said it would decide in the coming days what action to take.

Both Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Premier Aleksandar Vucic -- former Seselj allies turned pro-European leaders -- described it as "treacherous" and "shameful".

- 'Not going back' -

"I'm certainly not going to return to The Hague of my own free will," Seselj himself told AFP in Belgrade, adding that police had yet to contact him.

"I was expecting the 'cavalry' to arrive with a lot of fuss to arrest me, but they haven't yet turned up," he said.

Seselj, accused of leading ethnic Serb volunteers in persecuting Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs during the 1990s wars, underwent colon cancer surgery in 2013.

He was released on "humanitarian grounds" and only on condition that he doesn't influence witnesses and victims, but Seselj himself never agreed to any conditions.

The ultra-nationalist firebrand was repeatedly found guilty of contempt during his trial.

And on his return to Serbia after nearly 12 years in detention in The Hague, Seselj resumed his nationalist tirades by advocating creation of a "Greater Serbia" encompassing large parts of Croatia.

The prosecution had appealed against his provisional release, saying his public statements called into question the tribunal's assessment of his health.

In addition, his "threats to persons who cooperated with the prosecution breached the condition of his provisional release not to obstruct the course of justice".

Seselj has pleaded not guilty to nine counts, including murder, torture, cruel treatment and wanton destruction of villages.

Prosecutors said the radical politician recruited and indoctrinated volunteers and paramilitaries known as "Seselj's men" who committed atrocities during the Balkan conflicts.

Seselj surrendered to the ICTY in 2003 and went on trial four years later while in custody in the Netherlands.

The trial finally wrapped up in 2012 after interruptions over accusations of witness intimidation and the replacement of a judge, but Seselj is still awaiting a verdict.

The court said Monday that parties including Serbia and the Netherlands would be heard in order to conduct a fresh assessment of the merits of a possible further provisional release once he was returned to The Hague.

- 'Stability threatened' -

But Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said the revocation order "threatens the stability of Serbia and the entire region".

"When we receive official information about this, the Serbian government will decide on steps to be taken in the coming days."

Serbian Labour and Social Policy Minister Aleksandar Vulin pointed out to journalists that Seselj never agreed to conditions placed on his release by the ICTY.

"What has he (Seselj) done that's new compared to what he always does? What condition did he violate?" Vulin asked.

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© 2015 AFP

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