ICTY delays Seselj trial over witness intimidation concerns

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugolavia (ICTY) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday indefinitely suspended [decision, PDF, in French; ICTY press release] the trial of Volislav Seselj [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive] over fears that witnesses were being intimidated. Seselj, leader of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) [party website, in Serbian], is charged [indictment, PDF] with three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes, and is accused of establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the SRS, which are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs during the Balkan conflict. The 2-1 ruling came in response to a motion filed by prosecutors last month, in which they argued [court transcripts] there was "clear and convincing evidence that going forward will compromise the integrity and fairness of the proceedings." Chief Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti dissented because the prosecution has only a limited amount of evidence [AP report] left to present.

Last month the ICTY charged [text, PDF; JURIST report] Seselj with contempt of court after it was alleged that he authored a book revealing pertinent information about several key witnesses. It was the second contempt charge brought in the ICTY's trial of Seselj. In September, key witness Ljubisa Petkovic [ICTY materials, PDF] was found guilty of contempt [judgment summary; JURIST report] for refusing to testify against Seselj. In August, the ICTY suspended [press release; JURIST report] Seselj's trial pending an appellate ruling on whether the defendant could represent himself. 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 did not engage in courtroom behavior that "substantially obstruct[ed] the proper and expeditious proceedings in his case."



 

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