By Niklas Jakobsson
Over two decades after the worst conflict in Europe since the Second World War, Vojislav Seselj who is accused of war crimes at the International Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, has headed back to Serbia for medical treatment. Cue reactions – but some took longer than others to hit the Internet.
The former leader of the Serbian Radical Party has spent over a decade in a holding cell in The Hague awaiting sentencing. But he has managed to enjoy the Serbian sun again after he was released a few weeks ago to receive treatment for reportedly life-threatening colon cancer.
A world left baffled by the decision, according to some, justice finally served according to others. Seselj’s release has stirred the pot on one of the most controversial cases ever to reach the docks at the ICTY.
Analysis of the unexpected release is not as much analytical as it is a series of question marks in the heads of people involved in the case. Unexpected moves were made by the court leading up to the release, according to Daisy Sindelar in a piece for Radio Free Europe.
“Numerous exceptions were made for Seselj’s case […]. The Office of the Prosecutor, run by Serge Brammertz, did not participate in the deliberations. 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.”
More so than the unexpected circumstances, the Serbian government’s silence surrounding the release has struck a nerve with several commentators. Adelina Marini hit hard at the Serbian government for its inability to take a stance in an article for EUinside.eu.
“They [the Serbian Government] refuse to comment as Prime Minister Vucic afforded himself to only say that he sincerely wished Seselj good health, whereas Deputy Prime Minister Dacic called him “a very sick man”. In an interview on Tuesday evening on Serbian state-owned television, Alexander Vucic said that he neither wants nor can he say anything bad about Seselj, “because this means to say bad things about myself too. But we differ in terms of policies,” he said. “We should look into the future and not dwell on the past,” was his message.
But not everyone argues that the Serbian silence is based on an appreciation of Seselj or his release – or at least so argues Davide Denti, a PhD student and deputy editor of East Journal, on Twitter.
If you are looking for someone speaking out against the Seselj release – you need not look further than Croatia. The release has quickly turned into a political hot potato, which is doing the rounds in several Balkan countries. Hot potato or not – some commentators were quick to express their opinion, including a tweet from EUinside, supposedly quoting Vesna Pusic, calling Seselj out for being a war criminal.
But Twitter is not singing in harmony when it comes to the possible guilt of Seselj.
The Seselj release has opened a Pandora’s Box of issues and has affected the political climate in the Balkans. Guilty or not, Seselj and his release will be a talking point for months to come.
- Should Seselj have been released?
- Will he ever go back to the ICTY?
- What effect will this have on the political climate in the Balkans?
Click here to read about the conditions under which Seselj was released.
Lead image: Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj addresses supporters during an anti-government rally in Belgrade on November 15, 2014. (Photo: Andrej Isakovic/AFP)
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