Ultranationalist politician and war criminal Vojislav Seselj and members of his Serbian Radical Party on Wednesday evening physically forced anti-war activists out of a building in Belgrade’s Stari Grad municipality where Seselj was promoting his new book denying that the Srebrenica massacres were genocide.
“They pushed us and threw us out,” Ivana Zanic, the director of the Humanitarian Law Centre, wrote on Twitter after the altercation.
Zanic posted a video that showed people not allowing Humanitarian Law Centre activists to enter the hall. It also showed Seselj insulting HLC founder Natasa Kandic and ordering his supporters to “throw them out”.
Članovi SRS nam ne dozvoljavaju da uđemo u zgradu opštine Stari Grad na promociju knjige Vojislava Šešelja. Gurali su nas i izbacili napolje. pic.twitter.com/2N7OP3JstP
— Ivana Žanić (@IvanaZanic) February 5, 2020
Veteran anti-war activist Kandic told Radio Free Europe’s Serbian service that Radical Party members physically attacked her and other activists and knocked them to the ground.
“It was not just me on the floor, but two other girls from the [Humanitarian Law Centre] and one young man was kicked out as if they wanted to kick him. Seselj appeared and said ‘throw her out!’ Immediately there was a push came, and we found ourselves on the floor as a result of these heavy blows. Then they kicked us out,” Kandic said.
Seselj is still a member of Serbia parliament despite being convicted of wartime crimes by the Hague Tribunal in 2018. He was found guilty by the UN court of inciting deportations, persecution and other inhumane acts against Croats, such as crimes against humanity, in a speech that he made in the village of Hrtkovci in northern Serbia in May 1992.
He was also found guilty of the persecution of Croats living in Hrtkovci by “violating their right to security”. He was sentenced to ten years in prison but was not jailed because of the time he had already spent in custody.
Zanic said that the activists had hoped to hand out copies of the Humanitarian Law Centre’s dossier on crimes against Croats in Serbia during the 1991-95 war – issues that were at the centre of Seselj’s trial in The Hague.
The event promoting Seselj’s new book was held in a municipality building in Belgrade’s central Stari Grad neighbourhood.
The Humanitarian Law Centre, peace group Women in Black and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights NGO criticised the municipality for allowing the Serbian Radical Party to hold such an event on its property.
But Stari Grad municipality president Marko Bastac said that because the party has both MPs in parliament and councillors in the municipality, it has the right to book the hall.
“We really cannot control what they will do at their party gathering. Basically, they are legally allowed to use the hall,” said Bastac.