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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

ICTY begins contempt trial over witness identity revelations
Matt Glenn at 9:01 AM ET

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[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] began the trial [press release] of former Serb nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj [case materials; JURIST news archive] Tuesday on charges that he released the names of 11 ICTY witnesses in violation of a confidentiality order. ICTY prosecutors say that Seselj divulged the names [AP report] in a book he wrote and on his website [personal website, in Serbian]. Seselj, a former president of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) [BBC backgrounder] claims that the witnesses gave him permission to reveal their names and that they had been coerced into testifying against him. Last August, the ICTY ordered an investigation [JURIST report] into whether prosecutors had intimidated witnesses into testifying against Seselj in a war crimes trial. The presiding judge in Seselj's contempt case has agreed to adjourn the trial after the prosecution states its case to give Seselj time to bring witnesses to The Hague.

Last May, the ICTY appeals division upheld a 2009 contempt verdict [JURIST reports] against Seselj for revealing the identities of other witnesses that were supposed to remain confidential. Seselj's war crimes trial resumed in early 2010, after being delayed [JURIST reports] for nearly a year over fears that witnesses were being intimidated. He is charged with 14 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. The ICTY had previously stripped Seselj of his right to defend himself after he failed to appear in court, despite an earlier appeals court ruling that he could represent himself [JURIST reports] provided he did not engage in courtroom behavior that "substantially obstruct[ed] the proper and expeditious proceedings in his case." Seselj is accused of establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the SRS, which are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs during the Balkan conflict.

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