A United Nations tribunal on Wednesday overturned the acquittal of Serb nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj in cases related to war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, AP reported.
The tribunal sentenced him to 10 years, but he has already served more than that in prison. The prosecution had sought a 28-year sentence. Calling him the “chief propagandist of the Greater Serbia”, the prosecutors said Seselj had warned of “rivers of blood” in Bosnia if anyone opposed his vision for a Greater Serbia.
Greater Serbia refers to the nationalistic belief that all regions in the former Yugoslavia where Serbs live should form a united Serb state. This includes nations that became independent in the early 1990s, such as Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia.
Human rights groups had widely criticised a judgment in March 2016, when the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found Seselj innocent of crimes against humanity in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. After his acquittal, he led his nationalist Serbian Radical Party to win 23 seats in elections to the Parliament.
In a 2-1 vote, the judges had then ruled that the “Greater Serbia” project was a political, not criminal, project and Seselj deployed paramilitary volunteers to “protect civilians”. Prosecutors had appealed against the verdict and said the acquittal would harm the tribunal’s legacy.
Seselj was accused of having directly committed, incited, aided and abetted crimes committed by Serbian forces between August 1991 and September 1993. The war had left more than 1 lakh people dead.
In November, the tribunal had sentenced to life Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander, for genocide and other war crimes during the Bosnian War. Mladic, known as the “Butcher of Bosnia”, had led his forces during the massacre of over 8,000 Muslims over four days in the town of Srebrenica in 1995. In March 2016, the tribunal had sentenced another former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, to 40 years in prison.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is an ad hoc court, formed in 1993, to prosecute those responsible for war crimes during the Yugoslav Wars. Mladic’s case was the court’s last.