A court in the Hague has ordered Serbian authorities to state within 30 days whether they have the “jurisdiction, will and readiness to accept the trial in the case” of two Serbian Radical Party members wanted for contempt of court. Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta are accused by the Hague Tribunal of threatening witnesses in the war crimes trial against their party leader Vojislav Seselj.
Judge Aydin Akay said that Serbia must file a written motion on the issue so that the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals can decide on whether to cede the case against Jojic and Radeta to the Serbian judiciary, considering that the offence for which they stand accused was committed in Serbia.
Earlier in the course of a long-running dispute with the Hague Tribunal regarding the arrest and extradition of the two Radicals, Serbian authorities suggested that they be tried before the Serbian court, but the Tribunal rejected that possibility.
The tribunal sent a motion for their arrest to the authorities in Belgrade in January 2015.
In the spring of 2016, the War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade High Court ruled that there were no legal grounds for the arrest and extradition of Jojić and Radeta because the national law on co-operation with the Hague Tribunal does not provide for the extradition of individuals accused of contempt of court.
Judge Ađijus and Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz dismissed the Belgrade court’s argument, reminding them that suspects have been extradited to the court in the Hague in similar cases of contempt of court in the past.
On October 5, 2016, the Tribunal issued an international arrest warrant for Jojić and Rade, assessing that Belgrade had on several occasions refused to act on the order of the court to arrest and hand them over to The Hague.
The tribunal was closed at the end of 2017, but transferred the case to its legal successor, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals.
Tribunal President Carmel Ađijus has repeatedly called on the UN Security Council to “take measures necessary to ensure compliance with Serbia’s orders to the Tribunal, in accordance with its obligations.”
In March 2016, Seselj was acquitted of war crimes in Croatia, Vojvodina and Bosnia and Herzegovina, allegedly carried out between 1991-1993. The prosecution filed an appeal against that judgment, and a final verdict is expected this year.
In November 2014 Seselj was allowed to go back to Serbia to receive cancer treatment and has since refused to return to The Hague.
Photograph provided courtesy of the ICTY