vojislav seselj.jpg
Photograph: HINA

The acquittal of Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Thursday prompted different reactions on the political scene in Serbia.

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Cedomir Jovanovic said that the acquittal "cannot exculpate the policy of crimes and everything else that the war policies of the 1990s did to our own society and the entire region."

"The incompetence of the prosecution to prove the evident will never be a reason for us to give up our own value system and in particular to change our position on Seselj, who will forever remain one of the most bizarre personalities of the ultra-right political dregs," Jovanovic said in a statement.

Jovanovic said that throughout his entire political career, from the 1990s when he was sowing the seeds of hatred and fear as "a clown of Milosevic's criminal policy" until the present day when he was trying to return to politics, Seselj had advocated ideas that were leading Serbia to ruin and that every reasonable and decent person in Serbia was ashamed of his policies.

On the other hand, the rightwing coalition of the Dveri movement and the Democratic Party of Serbia said that the acquittal "should not obscure the fact that the Hague tribunal is a political and anti-Serb court" and that it was clear from the start that "the indictment against him was politically motivated and not based in law."

"In this case the Hague tribunal tried to translate a verbal offence into an indictment for a legally dubious crime of 'joint criminal enterprise' and other charges of which Seselj has been acquitted today," the coalition said in a statement.

Serbian political analyst Djordje Vukadinovic told Beta news agency that the acquittal was unexpected, considering the practice of the Hague tribunal. He said that the verdict had nothing to do with "various conspiracy theories" but should be seen in the context of the trial itself and judge Jean-Claude Antonetti, whom he described as an unusual person. Vukadinovic said that the Seselj trial had been problematic from the start, the indictment was poorly written, and that judge Antonetti was benevolent to the accused.

Political analyst Dejan Vuk Stankovic said that the acquittal would have a significant impact on the political scene in Serbia and on relations between countries in the region and that it could also be a chance for the Serbian Radical Party to improve its political rating at forthcoming parliamentary elections.

Commenting on the possible impact of the not-guilty verdict on relations in the region, Stankovic said that there was obvious disappointment in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, and that the acquittal changed the view of the war in the former Yugoslavia. "Not one Serbian official or political leader has been convicted for war destruction in Bosnia and Croatia, and all this is being gradually reduced to a civil war between the peoples and citizens who lived in those territories and who belonged to different ethnic groups."

Speaking of the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and Seselj in the context of the Hague tribunal's indictments and the outcome of the trial, Stankovic said that the Croats and Bosniaks considered the two men responsible for everything that had happened during the war, but that they were never convicted because Milosevic died in his detention cell during the trial and Seselj has now been acquitted. "To a large extent this downplays and possibly even fully neutralises their accusations that Serbia is the main political culprit for what happened during the war in the 1990s."

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