By Ivana Nikolic
Belgrade has promised the UN war crimes court in The Hague to cooperate over the case of three Serbian Radical Party members accused of threatening witnesses at their leader Vojislav Seselj’s trial.
Sasa Obradovic, the legal representative of the Serbian government at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, told BIRN that Belgrade has written to the Hague court promising that it will cooperate over the case of the three accused Radicals who are wanted on contempt charges.
“I promised the [ICTY] trial chamber that the case will be dealt with in Serbia according to the Law on Cooperation with the ICTY which Serbia signed,” Obradovic said.
“The case will first be discussed during a government session and I was told that will happen soon,” he added.
After being discussed by the government, the case will be forwarded to Belgrade’s higher court, where a judge will then examine it in accordance with the ICTY cooperation law, Obradovic said. The accused would then be sent to The Hague for hearings if the Serbian judge rules in favour.
The three Radical Party members – Vjerica Radeta, Jovo Ostojic and Petar Jojic – are accused of being in contempt of court by threatening two protected witnesses at their leader Vojislav Seselj’s trial for alleged wartime crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia.
They are also accused of blackmailing the protected witnesses and offering them bribes of 500 euros not to testify at Seselj’s trial.
Earlier this month, the ICTY’s trial chamber accused Belgrade of failing to cooperate because it hasn’t arrested Radeta, Ostojic and Jojic.
Presiding judge Alphons Orie ordered Belgrade to send “a report every two weeks describing in details the actions the government of Serbia is taking to fulfil its obligations and arrest the accused”.
But Belgrade reacted angrily to Orie’s statement, with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic sending a letter of protest to the ICTY demanding that the UN court treat Belgrade with more respect.
Seselj was allowed to return to Belgrade in November 2014 after being granted temporary release by the ICTY on humanitarian grounds to undergo cancer treatment.
After several controversial delays, the verdict in the case against him has been set for March 31, and the UN court has asked him to return to detention in The Hague.
Seselj has refused to go back voluntarily, but the Serbian authorities haven’t arrested him, citing his poor health as a reason.
According to Serbia’s Law on Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Belgrade is not obliged to comply with all the ICTY’s requests. The government can deny any request if it believes that it violates Serbia’s sovereignty or national security.
One of the accused Radical Party officials, Vjerica Radeta, has told media on several occasions she will never go to the Hague court voluntarily. The party itself has also reiterated the same statement.