ICTY assigns counsel for Serb nationalist politician Seselj after ‘disruptive’ conduct News
ICTY assigns counsel for Serb nationalist politician Seselj after ‘disruptive’ conduct

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website] has assigned counsel [decision, PDF] for Vojislav Seselj [ICTY case backgrounder], ruling that Seselj may not conduct his own defense in his war crimes trial. According to the ICTY press release [text]:

In coming to its decision, the Trial Chamber described numerous instances where Vojislav Seselj behaved in an obstructionist, disruptive and disrespectful manner, and intimidated and made slanderous comments about witnesses. The Trial Chamber ordered that Vojislav Seselj will participate in the proceedings against him through his defence counsel only. It will consider permitting his personal involvement on a case-by-case basis if it is in the interests of justice.

In its decision, the Trial Chamber carefully reviewed international jurisprudence on the question of an accused's right to defend himself. It cited jurisprudence that this right can be restricted in the interests of justice if the accused fails to cooperate in good faith with the court, or is willfully disruptive and disrespectful. …

The Trial Chamber expressed its concern that because of his on-going disruptive behaviour and unwillingness to follow the Tribunal's rules, Vojislav Seselj is undermining his intention to present his defence. The Trial Chamber noted that he had been warned on numerous occasions that his behaviour was obstructionist and demonstrated a need for legal assistance.

Seselj has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges [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 said Tuesday he is considering appealing the ruling.

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 trial that lasted over five years. Milosevic died suddenly [JURIST report] earlier this year before his trial concluded. AP has more.