ICTY appeals panel rules Serb nationalist war crimes indictee can defend self at trial

[JURIST] The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website] has ruled that Serbian war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj [BBC profile; ICTY case backgrounder] can act as his own lawyer in his upcoming trial. An ICTY trial chamber removed Seselj's right to self-representation [JURIST report] in August based on his "disruptive behavior," but the appeals court reversed the lower court decision [ruling, PDF; press release] late last week, determining that Seselj he had not been sufficiently warned that he could lose the right to self-representation prior to it being removed. The appeals court also made it clear that future courtroom antics that "substantially obstruct the proper and expeditious proceedings in his case" will not be tolerated and cautioned Seselj that a lawyer will be appointed if he engages in such behavior.

Seselj was indicted by the tribunal in 2003 and charged [indictment, PDF] in connection with his role in establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party [party website]. Those units are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Seselj has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His trial is scheduled to begin November 2 and prosecutors have indicated they anticipate their case will last about six months.

The ICTY allowed former Yugoslav President and onetime Seselj ally Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive] to conduct his own defense, which led to multiple delays in a five-year trial that did not finish before Milosevic's death [JURIST report]. AP has more.

 

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