Croatian President-Elect Calls Upon UN As “Watchdog” Of Peace To Consider Action On ICTY Decision

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic President-elect of Croatia Inset: Vojislav Seselj, indicted war criminal

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
President-elect of Croatia
Inset: Vojislav Seselj, indicted war criminal

Ever since indicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj was released from the International Criminal Tribunal/ICTY last November on account of his reported terminal illness, pending judgment, his public appearances in Serbia, filled with ethnic hatred, keep raising unrest and fear.

In early December 2014, the ICTY prosecution filed a motion seeking that Seselj’s temporary release be revoked, after it had allowed the time for an appeal of the decision to release Seselj lapse!
Chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said in the motion that the court’s “trust in Seselj’s conduct was without foundation”.
He has clearly demonstrated that his health condition is no barrier to making unacceptable public statements that are inflammatory and insulting to victim communities. He has also made public statements that call into question the trial chamber’s assessment of the extremity of his health situation,” said Brammertz.
The European parliament had at the end of November 2014 adopted a resolution urging the Tribunal to rethink its decision to temporarily release Seselj.
The European parliament strongly condemns Seselj’s warmongering, incitement to hatred and encouragement of territorial claims and his attempts to derail Serbia from its European path,” said the resolution adopted by lawmakers in Strasbourg.
Croatia had also condemned his release and called for him to be returned to The Hague.
But, the ICTY Trial chamber had on 13 January 2015 ruled against the motion filed by the prosecution and ruled against putting Seselj back into detention, saying that he had not breached the terms of his conditional release (not to have contact with victims or to try and influence them, not to obstruct the course of justice, to appear before the Chambers when ordered).
Seselj’s vulgar and offensive behaviour aimed at victims of war crimes in Croatia, his threats to pursue the aims of Greater Serbia – i.e. expanding Serbia into neighbouring countries of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina as has been the terrible attempt during the 1990’s terror and war of aggression, ethnic cleansing and genocide, in which it is alleged in ICTY indictment he took active part, continues from the streets of Serbia.

But there is new hope on the horizon that may put Seselj in check and disarm him from disturbing the peace, causing unrest and faring up hatred.
Croatia’s President-elect Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic wrote a letter to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in which she urged the cancellation of Seselj’s temporary release for cancer treatment and a quick verdict in his trial in case he dies before being judged by the UN-backed court.

Grabar Kitarovic said that although the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, is an independent judicial body, the UN should intervene because the court’s purpose – to “contribute to the restoration and maintenance of peace” – was being undermined.
She said that she feared that Serbian Radical Party leader Seselj could evade justice by dying before the final verdict, like former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 while standing trial in The Hague.
Victims of war crimes “deserve to hear the judgment of the ICTY condemning Mr. Seselj’s criminal conduct”, she said.
This is the 13th year of Seselj’s case before the ICTY.
As can be expected Grabar-Kitarovic’s letter to the UN regarding Seselj and the ICTY gave rise to many reactions in the media and all of them as far as I can see keep saying that ICTY is independent and UN Security Council, or anyone, cannot interfere or try and influence its decisions, that the letter should not have been sent to the UN. Even Croatia’s hopeless foreign affairs minister Vesna Pusic said that the letter to UN means nothing as “everything that could have been done by Croatia has been done,” she said.

But that is not true.


Everything that could have been done by Croatia was not done and it took a new president-elect to go that step further to the UN, the authority to which ICTY answers.


All the reactions to Grabar-Kitarovic’s letter to the UN that see no benefit or use in it are in fact the reactions of those who seem to lack in the knowledge of the full justice process and avenues. They fail to see that Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic actually took the only right and proper step by writing to the UN, where the Security Council to which the ICTY answers, is actually akin a judicial authority that looks into the judgments and the work of judges upon complaints being lodged. And if Grabar-Kitarovic letter can be seen as a complaint and/or an expression of concern that touches the very foundation which the ICTY was set up to protect – restoration and maintenance of peace – then UN Security Council has a duty to address this. Independence of courts does not mean independence from the authority set up to ensure that the independent tribunals actually do their job properly and with regard to maintaining the standards of peace they were set up to maintain.
In Western democracies, where courts are independent, we are used to bodies such as Judicial Commissions whose role and authority includes examination and investigation of complaints against judicial officers. I would think that in some way the UN Security Council would fulfill a similar role towards judges of the ICTY and much more along the lines of ensuring that the court is maintaining the non-negotiable standards of ensuring peace maintenance and restoration. If a court takes more than 13 years to deliver its verdict, if a court releases the accused prior to judgment due to illness, if a court does not impose release conditions that include “a ban from offensive behaviour towards the victims associated with the case”, if a court has forgotten its duty to maintain peace … if all these and more amount to a genuine concern for peace, then UN Security Council does not in my opinion have a choice but to intervene with view to weighing the judges’ decisions within the context they are expected to deliver – peace, not aggravation of peace . It’s such a joy to see that Croatia is finally getting a world-class leader in Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic who knows how to address concerns and has the courage to address them in more ways than one in pursuit of justice for the victims. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia Rejects Unequivocally The Hatred Originating Once Again From Serbia

Croatian Member of EU Parliament Andrej Plenkovic Who tabled the critical EUP resolution  on the Serbian nationalist Vojislav Seselj

Croatian Member of EU Parliament
Andrej Plenkovic
Who tabled the critical EUP resolution
on the Serbian nationalist Vojislav Seselj


Significant moves outside Serbia have occurred since my last post on Vojislav Seselj on 23 November and his hate speeches that attempt justifying Serb war crimes across Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990’s. These significant moves do not include an inkling of condemnation of Seselj’s dangerously hateful public outbursts by Serbia’s government. If anything, Serbia’s government can be seen as condoning Seselj’s actions even though they try very hard to convince the world that Seselj has nothing to do with Serbia’s government but find no words to condemn the man and his disturbing ethnic hatred speeches. He continues, freely, with the same rhetoric he served upon Serbs in the early 1990’s, which served as fuel to the despicable atrocities and war crimes against Croats, Bosniaks and other non-Serbs in former Yugoslavia.

The European Parliament resolution on 27 November instigated by Croatian MEPs and backed by all the main political groups has slammed the recent activities of accused Serbian war criminal Vojislav Seselj.
The EP resolution – declaration – condemns “Seselj’s warmongering, incitement to hatred and encouragement of territorial claims and his attempts to derail Serbia from its European path” and adds that his rhetoric “has reopened the victims’ psychological wounds” from the war and the atrocities of the early 1990s.
The resolution also calls on the International Crime Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to “take measures to re-examine the existence of requirements for provisional release under new circumstances.”

Seselj, the vicious madman of Serbia’s Greater Serbia political cauldron, responded to the EP declaration by saying that he would not return to The Hague voluntarily, stressing that he was very proud of the declaration adopted by the Croatian Parliament and the resolution passed by the European Parliament, especially because the latter was initiated by Croatian MEPs. Serbia’s government, of course, instead of condemning Seselj’s hate speech and sanctioning, or at least limiting, the content for any public speeches to be made by Seselj in order to curb hate speech that easily stirs many an ultranationalist into criminal activities has gone on the defensive without actually addressing the hate rhetoric stirring up unrest in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as deep concern in most EU countries.
Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has tried to play down the significance of Seselj’s comments.
There is nothing in today’s Serbia that connects this government and Vojislav Seselj, about whom I don’t even want to talk,” Vucic said on Thursday.
Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that the EUP declaration was offensive for Serbia as well as annoying and disappointing for its citizens!

Croatia’s Prime Minister said on Friday 28 November (source HRT TV news) he had scrapped a planned trip to Serbia next month due to Belgrade’s failure to distance itself from comments made by the Serbian ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj recently temporarily freed from a U.N. war crimes tribunal pending judgment.
Zoran Milanovic’s cancellation highlights a new chill in ties between Croatia and Serbia. To my view “closer” ties should not have been cemented without Serbia’s acknowledgement of the crucial part it played in the war crimes and aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990’s. But Serbia has a disturbing knack at playing the victim, when in fact it represents the perpetrator of aggression.

Seselj continues to be hailed in Serbia as a hero by many supporters. He has said he still believes in the ‘Greater Serbia’ ideology that fuelled the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo two decades ago. It would seem he has solid support for this devastating disposition within Serbia’s government. The lack of Serbian government’s condemnation of Seselj’s rabble rousing can, to my view, only be interpreted as support for him.
Addressing the Serbian authorities, Milanovic added on Friday:
All I am asking is that you say ‘this (Seselj’s comments) is not good, this is evil and I am distancing myself from this’. For some reason this government won’t say that and in these circumstances it would be ridiculous for me to go there“.

While Croatia plans to bring the issue of Seselj’s temporary release from The Hague, pending judgment, to the UN Security Council in the coming days it’s most prudent to consider the view on the matter presented by Luka Misetic, the defense attorney in the ICTY case against Croatian general Ante Gotovina who was acquitted by the Tribunal of war crimes contained in the indictment against

Justice Requires that Seselj’s Judgment Be Delivered Orally First

After eleven years of trial, the ICTY owes a final judgment to the victims, to the many witnesses who took the risk to testify against Seselj, and to Seselj himself. The ICTY cannot simply sit back and hope that Seselj survives his liver cancer for another year and half, long enough for Judge Niang to become familiar with the evidence and to deliver a written Trial Judgment in 2016.

The Trial Chamber can possibly avoid this doomsday scenario of Seselj dying before judgment can be delivered. It can deliver the Judgment orally, without a written judgment, almost as soon as a majority of the judges agree on the ultimate issue of the guilt or innocence of Mr. Seselj. Rule 98(C) ter of the ICTY’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence states:

The judgement shall be rendered by a majority of the Judges. It shall be accompanied or followed as soon as possible by a reasoned opinion in writing, to which separate or dissenting opinions may be appended. [5]

The phrase ‘or followed as soon as possible’ clearly implies that the Trial Chamber has the power to deliver an oral Judgement first, if it is in the interests of justice to do so, and provide a written Judgement as soon as practicable thereafter. Indeed, this procedure was followed in Aleksovski, where the Judges of the Trial Chamber first delivered an oral Judgement after finding that “at this stage of their deliberations it is important to convene a hearing in the presence of the accused, the Prosecution and Defence counsel as quickly as possible so that they may pronounce their Judgment.

In explaining the Trial Chamber’s decision to pronounce Judgement orally, the Presiding Judge in Aleksovski stated as follows:

Your trial proper started before this Trial Chamber on January 6th, 1998, and ended on March 23rd, 1999. Since that date, my colleagues and I have been deliberating, assessing, and reviewing all the evidence, briefs, and written documents of the trial. The conclusions which we have reached have seemed of such a nature that they justify amply the fact that the hearing be organised in the shortest of delays, without waiting for the final judgement to be put down in writing. This judgement will be made public as early as possible, but the urgency seems to be such that we have not waited for the return of the senior trial attorney of this trial, Mr. Grant Niemann, to which I would like to pay homage. May he be made aware that we are very sorry that he is not present today for we have always been very pleased with his work. I would like to say the same for Mr. Mikulicic: We are very sorry not to see them here today.

The Aleksovski Trial Chamber sentenced the Accused to two years and six months imprisonment. However, because the Accused had already been in detention for a period of time longer than the imposed sentence, the Trial Chamber ordered his immediate release on 7 May 1999. The written Judgement was not delivered until 25 June 1999.

The Seselj Trial Chamber should follow the precedent of the Aleksovski Trial Chamber and use its powers under Rule 98(C) ter to deliver a judgment as soon as a majority has reached a decision. If Judges Antonetti and Lattanzi have already reached a majority decision even without Judge Niang’s vote, then nothing precludes them from rendering their oral decision right now, because Rule 98(C) ter expressly states that the Judgement shall be rendered ‘by a majority of the Judges,’ not necessarily by all of the Judges. They do not have to wait for Judge Niang if they have already reached a majority Judgment. Indeed, even if Judges Antonetti and Lattanzi have reached a majority Judgment on certain counts but not others, Rule 98 (C) ter does not prevent them from issuing a partial oral judgment on those counts.

If Judges Antonetti and Lattanzi are deadlocked and have differing judgments on Seselj’s guilt, then the proceedings indeed will have to wait for Judge Niang to complete his review of the evidence, begin deliberations, and cast his tiebreaking vote. Even under this scenario, however, the Trial Chamber should not wait for a written Judgement to be prepared before pronouncing on Seselj’s guilt. As soon as Judge Niang has cast his vote, the Trial Chamber should immediately schedule an oral Judgment (hopefully in the summer of 2015), and render its decision on guilt or innocence orally. If Seselj dies thereafter, the Trial Chamber will nevertheless retain jurisdiction to deliver the written Judgement explaining its already delivered oral Judgment.

The ICTY will have to utilize some creative thinking and little known rules (like Rule 98(C) ter) in order to avoid the situation where Seselj dies and no judgment is ever delivered. That result would render the Seselj case a complete farce. Seselj has already been allowed to turn the ICTY proceedings against him into a circus during his lifetime. He should not be allowed to cement that legacy by escaping judgment through his death.”

Victims’ groups and human rights activists in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia as well as some in Serbia have throughout the past week issued statements approving of the EU Parliament’s resolution regarding Seselj’s inflammatory rhetoric. But all that seems futile, for at the root stands the fact that nothing human or humane moves Seselj or those who think like him. The added suffering victims of war crimes are forced to endure because of his latest spree of cruelty on the public stage in Serbia means nothing to him or to the Serbian government that chooses not to ban his public gatherings. Perhaps the UN Security Council will bring a dose of peace and humanity and cut Seselj’s hatred from spreading further. Let’s watch and wait to see what develops even if one did expect, albeit in futility, the current Serbian government to promptly nip in the bud the regurgitation of 1990’s ethnic hatred it used to occupy parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Madman On The Loose In Serbia Threatens Peace And Human Dignity

Vojislav Seselj, indicted war criminal awaiting ICTY verdict

Vojislav Seselj,
indicted war criminal
awaiting ICTY verdict


Vojislav Seselj’s return to Serbia (after being temporarily released from war crimes tribunal in the Hague on account of advanced illness and pending judgment) happened just days before the 23rd anniversary of the fall of Vukovar (18 November), which is a very important date for the Croats and which evidences untold atrocities committed in the early 1990’s against Croats and other non-Serbs in Croatia at the directive and under Seselj’s or Serbian Radical Party’s directives (whose members at the time also included the current Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic).

A master at rubbing salt into the wounds and enjoying it, as on 18 November Croatia mourned and remembered its dead, its raped, its devastated lives from Serb aggression, Seselj tauntingly published from Belgrade headquarters a statement in which he congratulated the Serb chetniks on their liberation from Croats of Vukovar on 18 November 1991! (He reportedly also sent such a press release to the Croatian media). For Seselj, for Greater Serbia ideology occupation, murder, rape, ethnic cleansing means – liberation! Furthermore, in the same statement Seselj and his Serbian Radical Party vowed to pursue with their aim in ensuring that the territory they had occupied in Croatia in 1990’s, which was then liberated by Croat forces in 1995, becomes Serb territory again.


Croatia reacted with horror to these statements by Seselj, but the Serbian government remained quiet. Seselj’s excesses have also unleashed a hailstorm of criticism against the ICTY, with detractors saying Seselj’s release deals a serious setback to the court’s mandate to promote post-war reconciliation.
To “correct” the lack of Serbian government’s reaction to Seselj’s hateful and violent public rhetoric, its foreign minister Ivica Dacic has come out saying that there is no need to react to Seselj for Seselj is not a political factor in Serbian government. Oh dear, he may not be, but he is certainly raising hell in Serbia and abroad!
As suggested by my previous post on the issue of Seselj’s temporary release from prison, there are many disquieting questions to be answered as to why the war crimes tribunal would release its prisoner pending judgment to receive medical treatment in their own country, far away from the court and far away the capacity of being able to monitor such treatment. As if to provoke outrage, numerous exceptions were made for Seselj’s case. The Office of the Prosecutor, run by Serge Brammertz, did not participate in the deliberations for temporary release. And the final order, published on November 6, stipulates only that Seselj should refrain from witness and victim intimidation and return promptly to The Hague when summoned. No restraints were put on Seselj in terms of political activity. The trial chamber also took the unusual step of circumventing a final consultation with Seselj that would allow him to accept or deny the terms of his release. Nor is it clear the trial chamber received detailed information about the state of Seselj’s health.
The November 6 ICTY court order approving Seselj’s release notes only that the judges had “received additional confidential information that points to a deterioration in the accused’s health.” The dissenting opinion in the matter by Judge Mandiaye Niang (PDF) describes Seselj as “gravely ill,” adding, “We know this despite his refusal to allow his medical file to be disclosed officially.”

If you, the fair and just minded reader, are confused and enraged at this point, know that you are experiencing an outrage at the lack of justice in this matter, at the lack of consideration for the victims of the brutal crimes committed against Croats under Seselj’s tutelage and orders. The courts that the just world has known to this point require expert evidence in cases of ill-health claims. In this case, Seselj has refused to disclose health records to the court and the court released him anyway! What calamity for human kind!

So far, Seselj has yet to show any overt signs of serious health setbacks. Indeed he appears as strong as an Ox and his voice is full of strength and energy; he emanates a dynamic stature and drive, he refuses to undertake medical treatment he’s reported to be returned to Serbia for. Certainly, he could be very physically ill nevertheless, and, in a mad rage to push his political agenda. Whichever it is, it’s certainly not what the ICTY said it was going to be (medical treatment/ exceptional humanitarian grounds).


Presented with Seselj’s public grandstanding, ethnic hatred speeches, raising unrest the ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz would like the world to believe that his office cannot appeal the temporary release decision without access to Seselj’s medical records! How about appealing on grounds that decision should not have been made without medical records in the first place!

Croatia’s president Ivo Josipovic stated that he wrote to the ICTY president Judge Theodore Meron, alerting him that Seselj’s hate speeches could destabilise peace in that part of Europe.

Former ICTY prosecution spokesperson Florence Hartmann used irony on Saturday 22 November when she commented on the Seselj situation and Croatia’s reaction to the Slovenian Delo:

They (Hague war crimes tribunal) are absolutely above everything, above international standards, above the UN Security Council, and even above God.”
“They’ve temporarily released a madman,” she continued.
If I were in Croatian president Josipovic’s place, I would not write to the president of the Hague tribunal, Meron, but instead I would write to the member states of the UN Security Council and ask them: what is happening? We are paying enormous sums of money for the work of the tribunal and in return we are receiving only attempts to revise the conflict’s history and premature release from prison of a madman,” said Hartmann. Hartmann said that there is more and more of nationalism emerging and that “we would not have that were it not for the fear of confronting the past.”
Croatian member of EU Parliament, Tonino Picula (Social Democrats) said that good care should be taken to ensure that “individual pathological cases“, such as recent statements by Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, did not affect entire societies. “Croatia should be extremely cautious, considering its recent past, and the European Parliament is a forum where we can discuss this in good time,” he concluded.


The issue is that “individual pathological cases” such as Seselj cause a great deal of suffering and fear and must be stopped at once, not discussed about “in good time”. One can discuss and discuss about a madman ‘till the cows come home’ but nothing will change. Firm action is needed.
On a more promising note, though, MEP Andrej Plenkovic of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that the European People’s Party (EPP) was planning to propose a resolution at a European Parliament session in Strasbourg next week to condemn Seselj’s behaviour. It’s an urgent matter to stop the rhetoric that caused the crimes of the 1990’s in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina – Seselj should have been on his way back to the Hague prison – yesterday! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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