Leader of Serb Radical Party faces contempt charges at UN war crimes tribunal

22 January 2009

The leader of the Serbian Radical Party has been charged by the United Nations war crimes tribunal, set up to deal with the war crimes committed during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, with contempt of court for disclosing the names and other details of three witnesses whose identities were ordered to be withheld from the public.

In a decision rendered yesterday, the trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) initiated contempt proceedings against Vojislav Šešelj.

Mr. Šešelj is alleged to have authored a book in which the information was published, along with other material such as excerpts of the written statement of one of the witnesses, all of which was prohibited.

“The Tribunal regards the safety of witnesses and the integrity of confidential materials as essential elements in the rule of law,” the ICTY, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands, said in a news release.

The Tribunal also noted that several individuals who have attempted to interfere with the judicial process by revealing confidential information or endangering witnesses have been prosecuted.

Mr. Šešelj is facing three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes relating to his alleged role in an ethnic cleansing campaign by Serbian forces in the Vojvodina region of Serbia between August 1991 and at least September 1993. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, which include murder, torture, imprisonment and deportation.

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