On Thursday March 31, thirteen years after his voluntary surrender, a trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague will deliver a verdict in the case of Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against non-Serbs in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Serbian province of Vojvodina in 1991-1993.
In their closing statement made four years ago, prosecutors demanded that Seselj be found guilty and sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in ethnic cleansing campaigns against non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and against Croats in Vojvodina, which included murder, deportation, maltreatment, plunder and destruction of property owned by Croats and Muslims.
"He is responsible for the suffering of tens of thousands of victims who were expelled from their homes, murdered, detained, tortured, raped, and whose villages, towns, and religious sites were wantonly destroyed as a result of his words and his acts," lead prosecutor Mathias Marcussen said.
Seselj has refused to attend the sentencing hearing. He said in Belgrade two weeks ago that he was not interested in the verdict and would appeal regardless of the outcome, adding that he had information that he would be sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was granted a provisional release in November 2015 on medical grounds.
Seselj is charged with nine counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war, including massacres committed at Ovcara, outside Vukovar, and in Vocin, both in eastern Croatia, and the expulsion of Croats from the Vojvodina village of Hrtkovci. In his public speeches he advocated creation of a Greater Serbia, with its western borders along the Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag line, and used extreme rhetoric to mobilise and incite both the armed volunteer units of his party and other Serbian forces to expel and kill Croats and Muslims, according to the prosecution.
During the trial the tribunal heard a recording in which Seselj explained how his party members maintained contacts and cooperation with the Serbian Ministry of the Interior (MUP), the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) General Staff and the Serbian State Security Service (SDB) and how his volunteers were supplied with weapons at JNA barracks and were trained before being dispatched to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The prosecution took this as proof of his participation in a joint criminal enterprise that also involved former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, JNA generals Veljko Kadijevic and Blagoje Adzic, SDB officials Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, Croatian and Bosnian Serb rebel leaders Milan Babic, Milan Martic and Radovan Karadzic, MUP official Radmilo Bogdanovic and Serbian paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan.