vojislav šešelj.jpg
Photograph: HINA / TANJUG / Sava RADOVANOVIĆ / mm

An International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Trial Chamber said in its ruling on Thursday that some of the speeches made by Serb Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, for which the prosecution claimed were warmongering, were in fact an invitation to persecution, but it decided to acquit him because cause and effect between those speeches and concrete crimes had not been proven.

"With this acquittal on all nine counts of the indictment, the arrest warrant issued by the Appeals Chamber is rendered moot," said presiding judge Jean-Claude Antonetti.

"Vojislav Seselj is now a free man," judge Antonetti said after finding Seselj not guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the Balkan wars in the 1990s.

The Trial Chamber concluded that Seselj did in fact give talks on his way to and in Vukovar, eastern Croatia, calling for "a showdown with the Ustasha", however a majority of judges could not refute the reasonable possibility that those talks were given in the context of conflicts and that their objective was to raise the morale and not to call on Seselj volunteers not to show mercy towards anyone.

A majority of judges could not conclude beyond reasonable doubt that by inviting Serbs to cleanse Bosnia of "balijas" in Zvornik, Seselj in fact called for the ethnic cleansing of the non-Serb population in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Antonetti said. A majority of judges said that evidence provided by the prosecution was insufficient to rule out the possibility that he took part in war efforts to encourage forces.

According to the chamber, the words Seselj had said in the Serbian village of Hrtkovci were a clear invitation to persecute Croats, however, a majority of judges said that the prosecution failed to prove that those words led to the forced departure of Croats or to a campaign aimed at their persecution.

A majority of judges concluded that two of Seselj's speeches in the Serbian parliament represented clear calls for the persecution and forced removal of Croats.

Although a majority of judges believe that those speeches represent a call for expulsion, Antonetti said a majority believes that they were an expression of opposition to the then Serbian policy and represented "an alternative political programme which was never carried out."

A majority therefore could not conclude that there was an incitement to commit crimes, Antonetti said.

The prosecution failed to prove cause and effect between those speeches and the crimes and that they are not the actus reus of incitement, Antonetti said.

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