"Hague Tribunal did not know what to do with Šešelj"

Rasim Ljajić has said the case of Vojislav Šešelj represents "a precedent" for which a great part of the responsibility lies with the Hague Tribunal.

Source: B92

Ljajić, a cabinet minister, also serves as president of the Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.

He told B92 TV on Thursday that Serbian authorities had received a request from the UN war crimes court to provide guarantees for Šešelj's provisional release, and that the government has a deadline of seven days to respond.

"The case of Vojislav Šešelj is a precedent on several grounds, and that precedent is still continuing. For the first time, the Trial Chamber initiated this kind of process and is creating the conditions under which a prisoner can be released, while that very prisoner does not want to be released," said Ljajić.

The state, he noted, can provide everything, including the demands placed before it when it comes to Šešelj, "and that is not the problem."

"We have had several cases of provisional releases, and so far there has never been any problems. The government always provided typical guarantees, but so far these guarantees have always been requested by the accused or their counsel and they agreed to the conditions put before them by the Tribunal," he said.

Now, according to Ljajić, the situation is completely different - the Hague wants to release the leader of the Serb Radical Party (SRS), but he does not.

"Therefore, the Hague should admit that they did not know what to do with Šešelj and have no way of coping with him, and now want to shift the problem on to us," he noted.

Ljajić also pointed out that the Hague "should clearly highlight the measures that the government of Serbia should implement regarding Šešelj, when that same Šešelj says he will not accept any of the conditions of the Hague Tribunal." In addition, he never sought the consent of the government of Serbia to be released, the official added.

Asked whether the government would have to arrest Šešelj, if he, for example, violated any of the conditions specified by the Tribunal, Ljajić said that the conditions "literally state" that he has to sit under house arrest, and must not speak to anybody, or give interviews.

"But he says he will give interviews, that he will talk... the Tribunal tells us that we should in that case arrest him," Ljajić said and explained that the Hague court was "asking Serbia to violate its own previous principles."

"So far we have always cared about the interests of our citizens in the Hague (Tribunal), and now they're putting us in a position to do something against the interests of one of the prisoners, that is, Šešelj, because he said he does not want to come here and accept the terms of the Hague. That has never happened before, and I believe it will not, and the responsibility for everything is largely with the Hague," said Ljajić.

He added that the conditions were immediately made meaningless, "since they only make sense if the defendant agrees to them." In this case, Šešelj believes they are contrary to his interests, said Ljajić.

According to him, Šešelj has not had direct contact with anyone from the government so far. "We have had good cooperation with his legal team, but he refused any communication with the government, with anyone. I went to visit him when he was ill, but he did not want to see me," Ljajić revealed.

When asked to comment on speculation of some media outlets that Šešelj, once back in Serbia, "could destabilize the political scene," the minister said: "I do not want to talk about political repercussions, nor do I care to. I have to do the job professionally and at this point we are talking about the status of a prisoners, whatever his name is."

Ljajić concluded by saying that he "does not believe the media reports" that the leader of the Radicals could present some new findings related to the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić - "considering that he had a chance to speak about that already while in the Hague Tribunal, but did not."

Vojislav Šešelj has spent the last 11 years incarcerated at the Hague Tribunal - ever since he voluntarily surrendered on February 23, 2003.

He pleaded not guilty to all counts in an indictment charging him with crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Vojvodina between 1991 and 1993.

Šešelj's trial, which commenced on November 7, 2007, is still ongoing. The prosecution completed the presentation of its evidence on January 13, 2010 and the accused, who is representing himself, did not wish to make any defense arguments.


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