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ICTY upholds contempt conviction of Serb nationalist leader

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Wednesday affirmed the contempt conviction [press release] of Vojislav Seselj [case materials; JURIST news archive], a Serbian politician and former president of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) [BBC backgrounder]. Trial Chamber II found Seselj guilty of contempt [JURIST report] last year for authoring a book revealing pertinent information about several key witnesses and sentenced him to 15 months in prison. The Appeals Chamber denied all eight of Seselj's grounds of appeal. Seselj's war crimes trial just resumed in January, after being delayed [JURIST reports] for nearly a year over fears that witnesses were being intimidated. He is currently being tried before Trial Chamber III on 14 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.

The ICTY had previously stripped Seselj of his right to defend himself after he failed to appear in court, despite an earlier appeals court ruling that he could represent himself [JURIST reports] provided he did not engage in courtroom behavior that "substantially obstruct[ed] the proper and expeditious proceedings in his case." Seselj 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.

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