The trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the case of three associates of the accused Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Seselj on Tuesday urged Serbia to amend its legislation in accordance with its international obligations and comply with the warrants for the arrest and handover of the three SRS members, electronic media in Belgrade said on Tuesday.
The three SRS members are Petar Jojic, Vjerica Radeta and Jovo Ostojic and they are wanted by the Hague-based tribunal on contempt of court charges.
Serbia cannot use its own legislation as an excuse for non-compliance with its international obligations. If the Serbian legislation is not in compliance with international obligations, it must be urgently amended to guarantee compliance with such obligations, the trial chamber said.
Following a conclusion by the Belgrade High Court that under the Serbian law on cooperation with the ICTY the conditions for the arrest and handover of the three SRS members have not been met, the ICTY says that Serbia has not indicated how this decision will affect its obligation to cooperate with the tribunal.
The High Court ruled in May that Serbia was legally obliged to hand over only individuals accused of the most serious war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, noting that this was not the case with Seselj's associates because they were charged with contempt of the tribunal and interfering with witnesses in the Seselj case.
The High Court said that the question at the heart of this matter was whether Serbia was obliged to cooperate with the tribunal in all cases or just in those concerning violations of international humanitarian law.
Citing Article 29 of the ICTY Statute, the trial chamber concluded that Serbia was obliged to cooperate on any request for assistance, including contempt of court cases.
The three SRS officials are charged with exerting pressure on two witnesses to testify in Seselj's favour. They were indicted in December 2014 and the warrants for their arrest and handover were issued in January 2015. After it failed to comply with the warrants, Serbia was ordered in January 2016 to submit regular monthly, and later bi-weekly, reports on the efforts it was making to fulfil this obligation.
In March 2016, Seselj was acquitted, pending appeal, of all charges of war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and expulsions of Croats from the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina.