With Seselj release, will ICTY's legacy lose its luster?

03 December 2014 by Sandra Milic, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Following the decision to provisionally release Serbian firebrand politician Vojislav Seselj on health grounds, pending judgment, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has come under scrutiny, with many fearing that the handling of this case could cast a shadow over the court’s legacy.

Supporters await the arrival of Vojislav Seselj  at Belgrade airport after his provisional release in November 2014
Image caption: 
Supporters await the arrival of Vojislav Seselj at Belgrade airport after his provisional release in November 2014 (Photo: Joost van Egmond)

Seselj was tried for war crimes he allegedly committed in Bosnia, Croatia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina between 1991 and 1993. Acting as his own counsel, Seselj used the trial as a platform for his ultra-nationalist rhetoric. He insulted judges, intimidated witnesses, went on a hunger strike and accused the court of trying to kill him.

A verdict was originally set for October 2013, but got postponed last minute when one of the three judges was disqualified for possible bias. The magistrate was replaced, but his successor needs until mid-2015 to read through all the court documents. 

Meanwhile, Seselj, diagnosed with cancer, is seriously ill. The ICTY last month [IJT-170] decided of its own accord to release him on health grounds. No conditions were placed upon Seselj other then to not influence victims and witnesses and to appear before the tribunal when ordered. 

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

19 February 2007 by Laetitia Grotti

One year ago on January 6, 2006, the 17 members of Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) were closing up shop after submitting their final report to King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan truth commission had received a flood of compliments from the international community praising the recommendations in its report, especially those advocating legislative and constitutional reforms. One year later, however, the results have been rather mixed.

11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

23 October 2006 by Christine Chaumeau

China is keeping a polite distance from international criminal justice. Beijing is hardly disinterested, but China does want to make sure that these new global mechanisms are not going to infringe upon its sovereignty by delving into particularly sensitive cases such as Tibet. 

United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

06 November 2006 by Pierre Hazan

France's attitude towards international criminal justice is marked by ambiguity. Paris subscribes to a vision of the world in which international humanitarian law is considered a way to curb violence against civilian populations, but at the same time it is wary of an unchecked judicial system that could end up prosecuting French soldiers engaged in areas where it has old and deep-rooted interests.