The third trial of Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj for contempt of court was held at the Hague tribunal on June 18 despite the defendant’s repeated claims that he had been denied basic procedural rights.
The trial chamber brought this contempt case against Seselj, accusing him of disobeying its orders to remove certain books and documents from his website.
He has been on trial in the Hague in 2007, facing nine counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity – including murder, torture and forcible transfer – in what prosecutors said was a campaign to expel the non-Serb population from parts of Croatia and Bosnia between August 1991 and September 1993. He is also accused of giving numerous inflammatory speeches and recruiting a force of volunteers who murdered, raped and tortured non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia.
Closing arguments in the criminal trial were held in March 2012 and the verdict is pending.
Seselj has already been sentenced for contempt of court twice by the Hague tribunal. In the first case, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison in July 2009 for disclosing information about the identity of three protected prosecution witnesses in one of his books. In the second, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison in October 2011 for disclosing the identities of 11 witnesses.
This third trial was one of the shortest in the tribunal's history, lasting less than a quarter of an hour.
Seselj was supposed to appear as the only witness but he refused to testify in his own defence, saying the court was illegal and biased.
“You are continuing to drastically violate my basic procedural rights and never on earth will I give up those rights,” he told the judges. “Write down that the accused refuses to give his defence due to violation of basic rights, and that's it.”
Expanding on this allegation, Seselj said that while the tribunal had agreed to pay for a plane ticket to The Hague for his legal advisor Dejan Mirovic, it had not done so for his case manager Nemanja Sarovic.
Seselj said he wanted both men to be with him in court.
“In the main trial [against me] there were 15 prosecutors rotating and I was sitting here alone. Now I don't want to sit here alone. I want both [Mirovic and Sarovic] to be here,” he told the judges.
Although Seselj is representing himself in court, he has argued that his advisors are necessary to ensure “that all [his] options are explored.”
Though the tribunal consented to pay for Mirovic's ticket, he did not appear at the hearing, for reasons undisclosed .
After Seselj addressed the court, presiding judge Stefan Trechsel closed the case and said that the chamber would announce its verdict at a later date.
Velma Šarić is an IWPR-trained reporter in Sarajevo.