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Trial Judgement in the case of Vojislav Šešelj delivered

Tribunal | | The Hague |

The Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today acquitted Vojislav Šešelj, President of the Serbian Radical Party and a former member of the Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. Vojislav Šešelj faced nine counts of which three were for crimes against humanity (persecution, deportation and inhumane act of forcible transfer) and six were for war crimes (murder, torture and cruel treatment, wanton destruction, destruction or wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion or education, plunder of public or private property). He was accused of having directly committed, incited, aided and abetted those crimes committed by Serbian forces during the period from August 1991 until September 1993, and to have been part of their commission through his participation in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE). 

The Majority, Judge Lattanzi dissenting, found that the Prosecution failed to prove the existence of a criminal purpose, a legal requirement to the JCE. The Majority concluded that the objective of the creation of Greater Serbia was more of a political venture than a criminal project. The Majority acknowledged that crimes had been committed by Serbian forces in the process, but that they were not inherently linked to the fulfilment of the purpose of Greater Serbia.

The Majority, Judge Lattanzi dissenting, also found that the recruitment of volunteers through which Vojislav Šešelj was deemed to have participated in the JCE or aided and abetted the crimes, was a legal activity regulated by the Yugoslav constitution and other relevant laws at the time. In any event, the Majority, Judge Lattanzi dissenting, concluded that the volunteers, once recruited and sent to the front, were not under the authority of Vojislav Šešelj, but rather under military command, as per the principle of Unicity of Command embodied in the pertinent regulations.

The Prosecution also alleged that Vojislav Šešelj directly committed a certain number of crimes, notably by public and direct denigration, in speeches inciting hatred of the non-Serbian population. For some of those speeches, the Majority, Judge Lattanzi dissenting, could not rule out the reasonable possibility that they were made in a context of conflict and were meant to boost the morale of the troops of his camp, rather than calling upon them to spare no one. Another Majority, Judge Antonetti dissenting, found that two other speeches constituted clear appeals for the expulsion and forcible transfer of Croats. This holding was not sufficient, however, to enter a conviction since the Majority, Judge Lattanzi dissenting, did not find that there were widespread or systematic attacks against a civilian population during the relevant period, ruling out thereby the existence of crimes against humanity. The Majority also held that the Prosecutor did not offer compelling evidence to establish or assess the impact of Šešelj’s speeches or the link to crimes committed at a later stage or in remote areas.

Vojislav Šešelj was cleared of all charges of the Indictment, with a majority decision on eight counts and a unanimous decision on one count.

Parties have the right to appeal the judgement.

In the course of this trial, which commenced on 7 November 2007, the Chamber admitted close to 1,400 exhibits. It heard 99 witnesses, of whom 90 testified for the Prosecution and nine were called directly by the Chamber. The judgement consists of just over 100 pages and includes two annexes, a concurring opinion from Judge Antonetti, a statement from Judge Niang and a partially dissenting opinion from Judge Lattanzi.

Since its establishment, the Tribunal has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of humanitarian law committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001. Proceedings against 149 have been concluded. Proceedings are currently ongoing for 11 accused.