Politics and Logic of the Hague Tribunal

Yesterday, from the Balkans came sensational news: International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia acquits Serbian politician Vojislav Seselj.

ICTY Court adjudicated Seselj for the crimes during the armed conflicts in the Balkans in 1991 – 1993. Total charge included nine items relating to crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina (Serbia).

The corresponding decision was announced by the presiding judge Jean-Claude Antonetti. “This means that from now, Vojislav Seselj is a free man”, said the judge.

So, Seselj spent a record 12 years in The Hague, since the voluntary surrender in 2003. In 2014 he was released to Serbia for treatment. He regularly expressed “contempt of a court”, as was stated in The Hague: he made public the facts which indicate bias and politicization of trials against Serbs. By the age of tedious proceedings goes his famous phrase that “the Serbs are Russians in the Balkans” and namely because of this proximity to the brotherly Russia Americans and their allies will always be against the Serbs.

Seselj was accused in crimes against humanity, violation of laws and customs of war. According to the prosecution, he was involved in the violent banishing of non-Serb population, murders and tortures, looting.

This decision was referred to sensational not only in Serbia but in the whole world. The Court has made no secret of the fact that the responsibility for the massacre of the nineties in former Yugoslavia, has been held liable for the Serbs by the international community. Crimes against them committed by Croats, Bosnians and Albanians, are usually referred to the sad chronicle of military actions, not worthy of attention.

One of the key factors in making such an unexpected acquittal was an evidence that Seselj, in terms of the military hierarchy, was not a commander for the Serb volunteers, and had only moral authority among them. Shaky face for such heavy charges, but virtually unanimous verdict of judges panel. But it turns out that the usual scheme is still in action: the Serbs are guilty of crimes, even in the case of undefined mass of nameless volunteers, and therefore what to say about changes in the court policy?

In addition, less than a week ago on March 24, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic received harsh punishment. The first president of the Republic of Srpska received 40 years in prison and was convicted on all counts, including genocide and crimes against humanity.

And suddenly: Seselj, a powerful figure, still involved in politics and loyal to the ideology of Serbian nationalism…

That meant his conviction? His surrender was obviously violent, as the politician several times said that he would never go voluntarily. And it would raise earnest popular rebellion not to mention the catastrophic effects on the results of PM Aleksandar Vučić’s (Serbian Progressive Party) party. The pro-Western course of the Serbian authorities, as shown by opinion polls and mass protests, has no support among the people. And the violent expulsion of the Serbian hero, who has already more than 12-year-old martyr’s halo on the frankly pro-Western and anti-Serbs tribunal would have become a dangerous spark to glow of popular indignation.

Output is actually obvious: ICTY acts unseparated from the political process, paying attention even to such short-term phenomenon, as the parliamentary elections in one country. A justification for one of the Serbs is certainly a joyous occasion for many patriots, but not promising any prospects to remaining Serb prisoners in The Hague.

Oksana Sazonova, News Front Србије

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