Vojislav Šešelj's acquittal appealed

Prosecutors at the UN Criminal Tribunal in The Hague have lodged an appeal against Serbian nationalist Vojislav Šešelj's acquittal. The judges had ruled at the end of March that there was not sufficient evidence that Šešelj committed war crimes in the Yugoslav Wars to convict him. Commentators also take the view that the verdict should be revised.

Open/close all quotes
Trouw (NL) /

Šešelj's acquittal rightly disputed

The judgement regarding Šešelj must be revised, the Christian daily Trouw believes:

“In its verdict the Tribunal doesn't just deal with the role played by Šešelj. The judges go much further and rule that it's not at all clear that the term ethnic cleansing can be used in connection with the war in Yugoslavia. A week beforehand in the judgement against Karadžić, Šešelj was still being named as an accomplice to the crimes. But now the Tribunal has opted for a completely new interpretation of the story. That is very unsatisfactory legally, and also detrimental to the fragile process of coming to terms with what happened in the former Yugoslav republics. Because by questioning the use of the term ethnic cleansing here the judges are nurturing nationalist revisionism not only in Serbia but also in Croatia and Bosnia.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Appeals court must overturn acquittal

The decision by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague to acquit Vojislav Šešelj must be overturned, demands former Croatian prime minister Jadranka Kosor in the centre-left daily Dnevnik:

“Precisely because we want Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to move in the direction of Europe, it is vital that the appeals court overturn the acquittal. Those who have been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Croats and Bosnians in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina must also be sentenced. We owe this to history, to peace and to coming to terms with the past. We can only build a future together if it is based on truth, without forgetting the past. People are not collectively guilty but there are individual criminals, full of hatred, who are guilty, and Šešelj is one of them.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Acquittal endangers stability in the Balkans

The acquittal of Vojislav Šešelj endangers stability in the Balkan states, the centre-left daily Der Standard warns:

“Vojislav Šešelj beat the war drums, sent guerrillas into battle and approved ethnic cleansings. During the entire court proceedings in The Hague he showed no remorse whatsoever. Šešelj's acquittal, which is legally understandable in view of the weak indictment, is nonetheless causing outrage in Croatia and Bosnia. And it will encourage Šešelj himself. This highly intelligent politician enjoys provoking people. Šešelj will inject his poison into the already strained regional relations. One kind of nationalism still fuels the other. The wounds left by the war are still open; there has been no process of reconciliation with the past. Unemployment levels in the region are sky high and the lack of prospects is crushing the young. This is an explosive cocktail.”

Večernji list (HR) /

The idea of a Greater Serbia lives on

In acquitting the Serbian warmonger Vojislav Šešelj the Hague tribunal has supported the idea of a Greater Serbia, the conservative daily Večernji list criticises:

“With the Hague verdict, Generations of Serbian nationalists will receive a boost for their idea of a Greater Serbia, which Belgrade has already tried to realize several times and which has cost thousands of lives. We know the story all too well! We will never forget the repercussions of this idea pushed through by the partisans of a Greater Serbia in their attempt to conquer foreign territories, annihilate other populations and expropriate their property. For us the idea of a Greater Serbia is nothing short of a crime, but Šešelj never tires of repeating that it is immortal. ... Before this verdict many gullible Croatians believed this 'business about a Greater Serbia' was over. The verdict is now also a lesson for them: the idea of a Greater Serbia is alive and kicking.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Prosecutors must make more of an effort

The UN tribunal in The Hague must learn its lesson from the Šešelj trial, the centre-left daily Dnevnik demands:

“Next time the prosecutors must make a greater effort and establish a direct connection between specific crimes committed by paramilitary groups and belligerent revolts as well demands for ethnic cleansing and the invasion foreign territory. … That connection is clear and logical for anyone with common sense, especially in Šešelj's case. But legal reasoning is a sui generis phenomenon that takes a good while to establish the connection between belligerent revolts and other verbal threats vis-à-vis unwelcome and endangered groups and the acts of genocide committed later on - if it manages to do so at all, that is.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Loss of credibility for Hague tribunal

Šešelj's acquittal was clearly a wrong decision by the tribunal, the centre-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung concludes:

“The court stated as the reason for its judgement that with their goal of establishing a 'Great Serbia' Šešelj and other key figures in Belgrade did not pursue a campaign of murder and expulsion but the 'protection of the Serbs' in the context of a legitimate military campaign. This argumentation is absurd and scandalous. For it contradicts the statements of witnesses, the findings of historians and all that is written down in the documents. And it also contradicts earlier rulings by the Hague tribunal. As recently as March 24 the judges who sentenced [former Bosnian Serb leader] Karadźić to 40 years in prison concluded that Šešelj was a member of a gang of criminals that systematically murdered and drove Croats and Muslims in Bosnia out of the country for years. … It is entirely possible that the acquittal will be overturned on appeal. But this will only somewhat lessen the damage the judgement has done to the reputation of the Hague tribunal without ever entirely repairing it.”