[JURIST] Vojislav Seselj [official website, in Serbian; JURIST news archive] returned home to Serbia on Wednesday, following his temporary release from prison. The Serbian far-right ultranationalist leader has been in custody at The Hague since 2003, after he was accused of war crimes and recruiting paramilitary forces during the 1990s Balkan conflicts. UN prosecutors also claim that Seselj’s speeches at rallies served to foster the ethnic hatred that eventually led to the bloody violence against non-Serbs. Seselj pleaded not-guilty to all charges, but a verdict has not yet been reached in this lengthy trial. However, the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] in The Hague agreed to release Seselj so that he may seek medical treatment for colon cancer in Serbia. Seselj’s release was based on the condition that he must return to the tribunal if summoned. He has also been instructed not to interfere with victims or witnesses in his case. Though Seselj was greeted at the airport by hundreds of cheering supporters, neighboring nations Bosnia and Croatia were outraged by his prison release.
Seselj’s war crimes trial began [JURIST report] in 2007 after he was charged [indictment, PDF] with three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes and accused of establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, which are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs during the Balkan conflict. Seselj has consistently argued that the ICTY is biased [JURIST report] and violating his right to a fair trial. Danish judge Frederik Harhoff was removed from the ICTY in August 2013 over claims of bias in a letter he wrote criticizing the court. Harhoff was a member of the three-judge panel responsible for overseeing the trial. In March Seselj argued that the tribunal is biased and does not have jurisdiction over his case, a week after the prosecution asked the court [JURIST reports] for a 28-year prison sentence against him. In January 2012 Seselj sued the ICTY [JURIST report] for $2.6 million in damages due to alleged unreasonable delays in his trial, alleging that the tribunal failed to give him materials in Serbian; denied him communication with family members, doctors and legal counsel; delayed his trial interminably; and refused him a right to his own, independent counsel.