The former deputy prime minister of Serbia, 61, who is being treated for cancer, had been implicated of recruiting and arming the Serb paramilitaries blamed for carrying out war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia during the early 1990s.
The ruling comes less than a week after the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karad ic was sentenced to 40 years in jail after being condemned of genocide over the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica. e elj, however, was found to have actually had no military hierarchical responsibility for the volunteers that he encouraged to sign up with the Serb army.
Croatia on Thursday banned e elj from going into the nation after prime minister Tihomir Ore kovic labelled the verdict shameful during a visit to Vukovar, scene of some of the supposed atrocities, where he laid wreaths in memory of war dead.
e elj was not at the courtroom in The Hague to hear the verdict. He had repeatedly refused to comply with the tribunal, staging a hunger strike, choosing not to enter a plea and decreasing to provide a defense. He had been permitted to return to Serbia because of his weakening health.
District attorneys had charged e elj, who established the Serbian Radical celebration, with three counts of crimes against mankind and 6 counts of war crimes. The allegations consisted of that he incited torture, murder, forcible deportations and persecution on spiritual and racial grounds.
S e elj was alleged to have propagated an inflammatory policy of unifying all Serbian lands in a homogeneous Serbian state, which he described as higher Serbia.
The ICTY judgment stated the prosecution s case had been complete of confusion and that a lot of the proof shows that [his] partnership was aimed at defending the Serbs and the traditionally Serb territories or at maintaining Yugoslavia, not at dedicating the supposed crimes.
In the bulk judgment, the ICTY s presiding judge, Jean-Claude Antonetti, said: One of the vital findings of the [court] was to note that while Vojislav S es elj might have had a specific quantity of ethical authority over his party s volunteers, they were not his subordinates when they were participated in military operations.
The totality of the evidence validates the fact that the function of sending volunteers was not to commit crimes, however to support the war effort.
The … findings do not by any methods presume to ignore, as well as less to conceal, the criminal activities dedicated in different areas in Croatia and [Bosnia], where the volunteers deployed by Vojislav Seselj or his party might have taken part or have been indirectly included.
The majority [of the judges] just notes that it is not pleased that the recruitment and subsequent deployment of volunteers implies that Vojislav S es elj knew of these criminal activities on the ground, or that he advised or supported them.
Antonetti continued: The [court] by a majority … was not able to find beyond all sensible doubt that, in calling upon the Serbs to cleanse Bosnia … Vojislav Seselj was calling for ethnic cleansing of Bosnia s non-Serbs.
The majority [of judges], in reality, believes that the evidence supplied by the prosecution is not sufficient to omit the possibility, in view of the context, that in making this appeal, Vojislav Seselj was rather participating in the war effort by galvanizing the Serb forces … Following this decision, Vojislav e elj is now a totally free male.
Inviting his acquittal, e elj applauded the UN judges who dismissed the charges. This time, after all the trials that implicated innocent Serbs, who received drastic sentences, 2 judges appeared who honourable and reasonable individuals are, he said at an interview in Belgrade.
The judges had revealed that their professionalism and honor are above any political pressure and brought the only possible verdict regardless of it being an anti-Serb court, Seselj said. The minute I left for The Hague, I understood they could not show I had committed a single criminal offense.
His acquittal was criticized by Croatian survivors of the 1991-95 disputes. This acquittal leaves me without words, said Vesna Bosanac, the head of a medical facility in Vukovar besieged by pro- e elj militia in 1991. The only thing that awaits him is the judgment of God.