The Appeals Chamber of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals hears oral arguments in the Šešelj case

The Hague
The Appeals Chamber
The Appeals Chamber

The Appeals Chamber of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, composed of Judge Theodor Meron, presiding, Judge Lee G. Muthoga, Judge Florence Rita Arrey, Judge Ben Emmerson, and Judge Ivo Nelson de Caires Batista Rosa heard today oral arguments in the appeal filed by the Prosecution against the judgement of acquittal in the case of Mr. Vojislav Šešelj, rendered on 31 March 2016 by Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

In February 1991, Mr. Šešelj was appointed President of the Serbian Radical Party and, in June 1991, he was elected a member of the Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. At trial, the Prosecution charged Mr. Šešelj with persecution, deportation, and inhumane acts (forcible transfer) as crimes against humanity, as well as murder, torture, cruel treatment, wanton destruction of villages, destruction or wilful damage of institutions dedicated to religion or education, and plunder of public and private property as violations of the laws or customs of war. The Prosecution alleged that Mr. Šešelj planned, ordered, instigated, committed, or otherwise aided and abetted these crimes. It further alleged that he participated in these crimes between August 1991 and September 1993 by way of a joint criminal enterprise, the common purpose of which was the permanent and forcible removal, through the commission of crimes, of a majority of the Croatian, Bosnian Muslim and other non-Serbian populations from approximately one-third of the territory of Croatia and large parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Vojvodina, in Serbia, in order to make these areas a new Serbian-dominated state. The Trial Chamber, by a majority, Judge Lattanzi dissenting, acquitted Mr. Šešelj of all charges.

The Prosecution argued that the Trial Chamber erred in law by failing to deliver a reasoned opinion and erred in fact by acquitting Mr. Šešelj. It requested that the Appeals Chamber revise the Trial Judgement to find Mr. Šešelj guilty as charged and sentence him accordingly, or, alternatively, order a retrial. In his Response Brief filed before the hearing, Mr. Šešelj argued that the Prosecution appeal should be dismissed in its entirety.

Mr. Šešelj – who has elected to represent himself – was not present at the appeal hearing. In his Response Brief filed before the hearing, Mr. Šešelj indicated that he had no intention of participating in the appeal hearing. In September 2017, the Appeals Chamber gave Mr. Šešelj an opportunity to reconsider his position and warned him that it would instruct the Registrar to assign a standby counsel to represent his procedural interests if he maintained his position not to attend the hearing. Mr. Šešelj did not respond to the invitation to reconsider his position. As a result, Ms. Colleen Rohan was assigned as standby counsel and was present at the appeal hearing to protect his procedural interests. Mr. Šešelj has been given an opportunity to respond to the Prosecution’s oral submissions within 10 days of receiving the B/C/S version of the transcript of the appeal hearing.