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UN Court Hears Appeal In Serbian Nationalist Politician’s Acquittal

Serbian ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj has repeatedly insisted he would not go back to The Hague voluntarily. (file photo)

A UN court has heard an appeal against the acquittal of Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Seselj is accused of committing the crimes against non-Serbs in Croatia, Serbia’s Vojvodina region, and Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Balkan wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and cost an estimated 130,000 lives.

During the December 13 appeal hearing, the prosecution explained to judges at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) in The Hague why they believe that the 2016 verdict should be overturned.

UN prosecutors are asking the court to find Seselj guilty on three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of violations of the laws or customs of war and sentence him to 28 years in prison -- or order a new trial.

The alleged crimes include persecution on political, racial, or religious grounds, deportation, murder, and torture.

Seselj, a member of parliament with his Serbian Radical Party, did not attend the hearing and has repeatedly insisted he would not go back to The Hague voluntarily.

The tribunal has appointed a lawyer to represent his legal interests in court.

In a controversial majority decision in March last year, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted Seselj of all charges.

One of the three judges dissented, saying the acquittals ignored international law and the tribunal's jurisprudence, while the court's chief prosecutor said judges ignored a large body of evidence when they freed Seselj.

The MICT building, which houses the tribunal's predecessor, the ICTY, is part of a crime scene for Dutch investigators following the suicide of former Bosnian Croat military commander Slobodan Praljak.

He swallowed cyanide in the courtroom on November 29 after judges upheld his 20-year jail term for war crimes -- their last sentence before the ICTY closed.

With reporting by AFP and BalkanInsight