THE HAGUE, Netherlands, March 31 (UPI) — The U.N. war crimes court on Thursday found former Serbian leader Vojislav Seselj not guilty of war crimes alleged during the 1990s Balkan War.
The leader of the hardline Serbian Radical Party bears no individual responsibility for war crimes, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia announced in The Hague, Netherlands. The verdict ended a trial in progress since 2007, which began after Seselj surrendered voluntarily in 2003.
He heard the verdict while in Belgrade, Serbia, having been released in 2014 to seek cancer treatment.
Seselj, 61, was a Serbian Parliament member, and the deputy prime minister from 1998 to 2000 when atrocities in Kosovo were at their peak. He was also a close ally of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. The indictment charged Seselj with three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes — including murder, persecution, torture and expulsion — for inciting ethnic cleansing in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia’s Vojvodina province between 1991 and 1993.
Prosecutors argued he was criminally responsible for the murder, torture and deportation of non-Serbs as part of his project to create a “Greater Serbia,” accusing him of leading volunteers from his political party in “unspeakable crimes.” Seselj was combative throughout the trial, challenging the tribunal’s legitimacy in long outbursts and refusing to return to The Hague to hear the verdict.
In announcing the verdict and freeing Seselj, Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti said, “The propaganda of nationalist ideologies is not criminal.”
“The chamber is not satisfied that the recruitment/deployment of volunteers implies that Vojislav Seselj knew of the crimes committed on the ground, nor [that he] instructed or ordered crimes.”