The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Thursday sentenced Serbian ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj to two years in prison over his failure to remove confidential information from his website despite being repeatedly ordered by the court.
Seselj is facing trial at the ICTY for his alleged role in atrocities committed during the 1991-93 Balkan wars. He is facing nine charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the 1991-93 Balkan wars, including murder, torture, sexual assault, forced transportation and destruction of property. Seselj has consistently denied the charges. Nevertheless, prosecutors at the ICTY have sought a 28-year prison term for him.
Seselj is also accused of using hate-laced speeches to incite violence and teamed up with Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to "ethnically cleanse" large parts of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia's northern Vojvodina region. Milosevic himself was tried at the ICTY, but died in 2006 before the court proceeding ended.
Earlier, Seselj had published on his website four of his books and six confidential filings which reveal confidential information about a number of protected witnesses who testified in his main trial before the Tribunal for alleged war crimes. He is yet to remove them from the website despite repeated ICTY orders.
"Non-compliance with such orders is a serious matter, which not only interferes with the administration of justice but risks undermining public confidence in the Tribunal and, thereby, the effectiveness of its judicial function, including its ability to grant effective protective measures where necessary," said the presiding judge, Stefan Trechsel, said in a news release.
According to the ICTY, Seselj was in position to remove the information from his website, but explicitly stated that he did not intend to comply with the order or remove his books published there.
This was the ICTY's third contempt trial against Mr. Seselj. He was first convicted to 15 months of imprisonment on 19 May 2010 for disclosing the personal details of protected witnesses in a book he authored, and subsequently to 18 additional months for the same reason in a different book. Both books were among those at issue in the third contempt case.
Seselj's trial opened at the ICTY in November 2007, more than four years after he surrendered to the UN court days after he was indicted in 2003. He has since been under tribunal detention. His trial has been dragging on due to the two earlier contempt of court convictions and threats against witnesses. Seselj had pleaded not guilty on all charges when his trial opened at the ICTY in 2007, but has not mounted a defense of his own or called any witnesses.
The Serbian Radical Party, of which Seselj is a senior leader, still holds 57 seats in the 250-member Serbian parliament. Seselj denies any involvement in the atrocities committed during the Balkan wars and insists that the case against him is politically motivated.
The ICTY was established in 1993 in The Hague, the Netherlands, to investigate serious crimes committed during the wars in former Yugoslavia, and to prosecute alleged perpetrators. The tribunal has so far indicted more than160 people for crimes alleged to have been carried out in the territory of the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001.
In addition to Seselj, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and ex-Bosnian Serb Army chief Ratko Mladic are also facing trial at the ICTY in connection with atrocities committed during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war. Goran Hadzic, former leader of Croatia's ethnic Serbs, is also being tried at the ICTY on charges related to the atrocities committed during the bloody 1991-1995 ethnic war in Croatia.
by RTT Staff Writer
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