ICTY release: “an epic battle of wills that Seselj won”

03 December 2014 by IJT

Michael Scharf, interim dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Law, is an expert on maintaining control of war crimes trials whose video on the subject has been included in the UN Audiovisual Library of International Law. IJT asked him to share insights about the recent decision of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to release Serbian firebrand politician Vojislav Seselj.

Image caption: 
Supporters celebrate the return of Vojislav Seselj to Belgrade in November 2014 (Joost van Egmond)

Can you comment on the Seselj release and how this decision might affect the legacy of the ICTY?

Michael Scharf (MS): The decision to release Vojislav Seselj has to be viewed in the context of the tribunal’s struggle to maintain control of Seselj’s trial. Seselj invoked the right to represent himself at trial and then – through disruptive outbursts, the use of profane language in court filings and the publication of defamatory books about the prosecutors and judges – sought to provoke the judges into responses that would look unfair. When the tribunal revoked Seselj’s right of self-representation, Seselj went on a hunger strike, prompting the tribunal to give in to his demands, including reinstating his right of self-representation and providing him a suite of rooms in the tribunal’s detention centre. And now, with the decision to let Seselj return to Serbia for medical treatment, the case will be remembered as an epic battle of the wills that Seselj won.

Some commentators say it will taint the court, as it is again a disappointment for the victims. Do you agree?

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