UN court convicts Serb leader
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has found Vojislav Seselj, the Serbian Radical Party leader, guilty of war crimes against Croatians in northern Serb province of Vojvodina during the early 1990s war and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
During the war he described Muslims as “excrement” and called for Croats to have their eyes gouged out.
Seselj tweeted that he was “proud of all my war crimes” and was “ready to repeat them”.
Before the hearing, he said: “I don’t care about the ruling. Now I’ll go and have a siesta.”
Seselj has spent 11 years in custody in The Hague since 2003 so his sentence had been served, the court said.
Serbian lawyers and NGOs have argued that Seselj, 63, should be stripped of his parliamentary seat according to a law that says an MP’s term ends if they are sentenced to at least six months in prison.
Lawyer Katarina Golubovic from the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, Yucom, said Seselj’s term automatically ended under the law.
The Dutch-based court said Seselj was guilty of inciting hate crimes with his nationalist speeches, including one in May 1992 that was deemed to have sparked atrocities against ethnic Croats in Vojvodina.
Seselj, a close ally of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s, had been in custody awaiting sentencing for 12 years after surrendering in 2003.
The ruling marked the first conviction by an international tribunal for inciting war crimes through speeches.
In 2016, the war crimes tribunal acquitted Seselj of all nine charges, but that was partially overturned by an appeal.
While the new verdict has been welcomed, prosecutors, who accused Seselj of murdering scores of Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs between 1991 and 1993, had been seeking a 28-year jail term.
The ruling said the establishment of a “Greater Serbia” was Seselj’s aim, which did not constitute a crime, adding that there was not enough evidence to prove a systematic attack was organised by Seselj against Bosnian Muslims.
In March 2016, in a two-to-one vote, the war crimes tribunal found Seselj innocent of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Judge Flavia Lattanzi opposed the verdict and argued that the conclusions reached by the other two judges were unfounded.
Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party, before the 2012 election. Picture credit: Wikimedia