The UN court in The Hague decided to transfer to Belgrade the case against two Serbian Radical Party officials who are charged with contempt of court in the trial of their leader Vojislav Seselj.
The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague said on Wednesday that the case against Serbian Radical Party officials Petar Jojic and Vjerica Radeta should be transferred to Serbia because Belgrade has expressed readiness to take the case and the alleged crime was committed in Serbia.
“Serbia indicated that the defendants lived in that country and that they expressed readiness to appear before a Serbian court,” said the decision by judge Aydin Sefa Akay.
The special prosecutor in charge of the case, Diana Ellis, objected to the transfer of the case to Serbia, claiming that the Belgrade had ignored the UN court’s requests to arrest the two nationalist politicians and extradite them to The Hague.
But judge Sefa Akay responded that “the special prosecutor’s objection does not bring into question the Serbian guarantee that it is ready to take this case over”.
The UN tribunal first accused Jojic and Radeta in 2012 of influencing witnesses in the Hague trial of their party leader Vojislav Seselj by persuading them to change their testimonies or not testify at all, using threats, blackmails and bribery.
Since then, the Serbian authorities have been locked in a long-running dispute with the tribunal over the arrest and extradition of the two Radicals.
The tribunal submitted a warrant ordering their arrest in January 2015.
But in May 2016, the war crimes chamber of the Belgrade Higher Court ruled that there were no legal grounds for extraditing the Radicals because Serbia’s Law on Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal obliged Belgrade to extradite people charged with war crimes, but not those charged with contempt of court.
In October 2016, the tribunal issued an international warrant for the arrest of Jojic and Radeta, saying that Serbia had refused to act on the Tribunal’s order to arrest and extradite them several times.
Interpol then issued ‘red notices’ for Jojic and Radeta.
The tribunal has reported Serbia to the UN Security Council several times for non-cooperation in the case.
A third Radical Party member who was also accused in the case, Jovo Ostojic, died in Serbia last year.
In April this year, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals sentenced Radical Party chief Seselj to ten years in prison for the persecution of Croats in the village of Hrtkovci in Serbia’s Vojvodina region in 1992.
However, Seselj will not serve any further jail time because of the years he has already spent in custody.
Seselj, who is a Serbian MP, has said he will not quit parliament despite his war crimes conviction, which legally disqualifies him from sitting in the legislature.