Acquitted at first instance in 2016, the ultranationalist Serbian Vojislav Seselj was sentenced on appeal on Wednesday for crimes against humanity by a UN tribunal that tried him for his responsibility in the bloody conflicts in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.
He was found guilty of “persecution”, “deportation”, “forcible transfers” of people, and other “crimes against humanity”. And contrary to the court’s original ruling, his fiery speeches from 1991 to 1993, at the beginning of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, did indeed “incite violence” and “violated the right to security” of the non-Serb population, according to the judgement.
A strong supporter of Greater Serbia, deputy and founder of the Serbian Radical Party, Mr Seselj was sentenced to ten years in prison but will go free, as the sentence will be considered time served. The 63-year-old man, who was absent from the appeal, has already spent almost 12 years in prison between February 2003 and November 2014, when he was released on health grounds.
Reacting to his conviction, the ultranationalist said on Wednesday that he was “proud of the crimes that are attributed to him” and was “ready to repeat them in the future”.Seselj was accused, among other things, of encouraging his troops to “spare no one” during the siege of the Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991. In total, the war killed 20,000 people in Croatia and 100,000 in Bosnia.
Former Deputy Prime Minister to Milosevic, Seselj remained his ally until his fall in 2000. Three years later Seselj turned himself in to the Hague in to stand trial. He had been allowed to return to Serbia in 2014 to be treated for cancer.
In March 2016, he was acquitted at the end of an eight-year trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of nine counts of “ethnic cleansing” aimed at Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs in the 1990s. Surprisingly, the court ruled that his speeches were not based on criminal intent and were meant to boost morale.
At the time, the three judges had considered that the ultranationalist was not “the hierarchical leader” of the militia of his Radical Party since they had passed under the control of the army, and that he so was not responsible for their actions.
The prosecution, which promptly appealed, sought to overturn the acquittal and “to overturn the ICTY Trial Chamber’s flawed judgement”.