Serbia ‘not cooperating’ in arrests: UN war crimes tribunal
War crimes judges on Wednesday piled pressure on Serbia to arrest three suspects over alleged witness tampering in the case of an ultra-nationalist, warning Belgrade is “not cooperating” with the UN tribunal.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in January 2015 issued arrest warrants for indicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj’s defence team lawyers, Petar Jojic and Vjerica Radeta, as well as a former war-time associate Jovo Ostojic.
The three are charged with allegedly “having threatened, intimidated, offered bribes to, or otherwise interfered with two witnesses,” in two cases in Seselj’s long-running battle with The Hague-based tribunal.
“It is clear to the chamber that Serbia is not cooperating in this matter,” a visibly irritated judge Alphons Orie told Belgrade’s legal representative Sasa Obradovic.
“You (Belgrade) have had more than a year to arrest them,” said the judge, who then ordered Serbia to hand in “detailed reports every two weeks” of its efforts to detain the suspects.
The warrants say the lawyer, Jojic, and Ostojic approached a prosecution witness in Seselj’s main trial — in which he faces charges of ethnic cleansing against Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs during the brutal Balkan wars in the 1990s.
Jojic is accused of dictating a statement supposedly written by the witness, which was “occasionally corrected” by Seselj’s wartime associate Ostojic.
According to court papers, the statement was “untruthful in that it contained false allegations against the prosecution and misrepresented the role and responsibilities of Seselj during the war.”
The witness “signed the statement without reading it” and was later told to memorise it when testifying in court.
Seselj, a firebrand Serb nationalist, is accused of leading Serb volunteers to conduct ethnic cleansing of large parts of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia’s northern Vojvodina region during the conflict that claimed over 130,000 lives and left millions of others homeless.
In a second incident, lawyer Radeta allegedly contacted a prosecution witness and told him Seselj’s lawyers “would help him,” if he changed his testimony and came over to the defence’s side in a separate contempt of court case against Seselj.
The witness afterwards received a 500 euro ($530) per month payment from Seselj’s Serbian Radical Party and was handed a summary of questions and answers which he had to memorise.
Judges in 2012 handed Seselj a two-year jail term in the contempt case.
Seselj meanwhile was allowed to travel back to Serbia last year to undergo cancer treatment pending a verdict in his main trial.
Since then, Seselj has repeatedly lashed out at the UN tribunal, vowing not to return for his sentencing or to serve any time, as well as resuming his fiery nationalist rhetoric.