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Serb nationalist leader slams ICTY in opening statement of war crimes trial

[JURIST] Serb nationalist leader and war crimes defendant Vojislav Seselj [BBC profile; ICTY case backgrounder, PDF] used his opening statement at his trial Thursday to call the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) "illegal and illegitimate," and accused the court of an impermissible bias against Serb defendants. Seselj, accused of establishing rogue paramilitary units responsible for massacring and otherwise persecuting Croats and other non-Serbs during the Balkan conflict, also accused the ICTY of inflating the number of Muslims massacred by the Serbs in 1995. According to Seselj, the Serbs only massacred 1,000 Bosnian Muslims, not the 7,000 to 8,000 alleged by the ICTY. AP has more.

The ICTY has charged Seselj [indictment, PDF; pre-trial brief, PDF] with three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes. Last year, Seselj agreed to end his nearly month-long hunger strike [JURIST reports] after an ICTY appeals chamber ruled that Seselj could represent himself during trial. The ICTY had previously stripped Seselj of his right to defend himself [JURIST report] after he failed to appear in court, despite an earlier appeals court ruling that he could represent himself [JURIST report] provided he not engage in courtroom antics that "substantially obstruct the proper and expeditious proceedings in his case." During the prosecution's opening statement Wednesday on the first day of Seselj's trial [JURIST report], Seselj was accused of inciting atrocities through hateful speeches he made during the Balkan Wars. He is the founder of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party [party website, in Serbian].

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