Vojislav Seselj has been found not guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the Balkan wars in the 1990s.
The UN war crimes court at The Hague said the Serbian ultra-nationalist had neither borne individual responsibility for the crimes, nor known about them nor endorsed them.
Vojislav Seselj had denied the charges. In his first reaction, he said the court had reached the only verdict possible.
Croatia’s prime minister condemned the verdict as “shameful”.
The UN tribunal’s prosecutor Serge Brammertz said his office would decide later whether to appeal.
“I’m absolutely convinced that the victims’ communities and many people will not be satisfied with this outcome,” Serge Brammertz said.
Vojislav Seselj was allowed to go to Belgrade in 2014 after being diagnosed with cancer and was not present in the courtroom.
He had even refused the tribunal’s offer to follow the verdict by video link.
The radical has been taking part in anti-government rallies ahead of Serbian parliamentary elections in April.
Vojislav Seselj was a close ally of the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. He served as Serbian deputy prime minister from 1998 to 2000.
He surrendered to the UN court (the ICTY) voluntarily in 2003. When the ICTY sought to appoint a defense lawyer against his wishes, he went on hunger strike.
The indictment charged Vojislav Seselj with three counts of crimes against humanity and six of war crimes for inciting ethnic cleansing in Croatia, Bosnia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina in the period August 1991-September 1993.
On the most serious charge of crimes against humanity, presiding Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti said the prosecution “had failed to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that there was a widespread and systematic attack against the non-Serb civilian population in large areas of Croatia and Bosnia.
“The evidence tendered and considered establishes instead that there was an armed conflict between enemy military forces with civilian components.”
Prosecutors had argued Vojislav Seselj was criminally responsible for the murder, torture and deportation of non-Serbs as part of his project to create a “Greater Serbia”.
They had accused him of raising an army of volunteers who committed “unspeakable crimes”.
However, the trial chamber found that there was no “criminal purpose in sending volunteers” – and, moreover, they had not been under Vojislav Seselj’s command.
“The majority simply notes that it is not satisfied that the recruitment and subsequent deployment of volunteers implies that Vojislav Seselj knew of these crimes on the ground, or that he instructed or endorsed them,” it said.
The verdict also concluded that the “Greater Serbia” plan Vojislav Seselj had supported was not a “criminal”, but “political”, project.
Croatian PM Tihomir Oreskovic criticised the outcome as “a defeat for the Hague tribunal and the prosecution”.
Vojislav Seselj had consistently berated the tribunal, challenging its legitimacy – and regretting the fact that it could not pass a death sentence on him.
On March 31, Vojislav Seselj said he wanted 14 million euro in compensation against the UN tribunal.
Dozens of refugees have reached Croatia – opening up a new route to northern EU countries, a day after Hungary sealed its border with Serbia.
The refugees crossed into Croatia, an EU member, from Serbia.
Croatia says it is ready to receive them or “direct” them to where they want to go. Many migrants – mainly Syrian – are hoping to reach Germany.
New border restrictions and a row over allocating migrants have shown bitter divisions in Europe over the crisis.
Hundreds of refugees remain stranded outside or in makeshift tents near the Serbian border with Hungary.
On September 15, Hungary declared a state of emergency in the border area, with hundreds of army and police deployed to enforce new laws making it an offence to breach a razor-wire border fence.
Police sealed a railway crossing point near Roszke which had been used by tens of thousands of migrants to enter the European border-free Schengen zone.
The move has all but stopped the inflow.
On September 16, Hungarian police said they had detained 367 refugees entering illegally – and the first criminal proceedings have been launched.
The EU’s border agency says more than 500,000 refugees have arrived at the EU’s borders so far this year, compared with 280,000 in 2014.
Many are fleeing conflict and poverty in countries including Syria, where a civil war has been raging since 2011.
The refugees have been crossing from Turkey, with about 1,000 in the city of Edirne on September 16, waiting to organize a crossing into Greece. Their journey would then take them to Macedonia and Serbia.
Until September 15, most poured into Schengen member Hungary and crossed into Austria to reach Germany. Both Germany and Austria have introduced tighter border controls to control the flow.
A group of about 40 refugees arrived in the border town of Sid in Serbia on September 16. They had travelled by bus from the Serbian town of Presevo near the Macedonian border in the south.
They crossed into Croatia where police began registering them.
Croatia’s PM Zoran Milanovic told parliament that authorities were “entirely ready to receive or direct those people where they want to go, which is obviously Germany or Scandinavian countries”.
“They will be able to pass through Croatia and we will help, we’re getting ready for that possibility,” he said.
A meeting of the Croatian National Security Council has been called to co-ordinate the response.
Croatian media have warned of the dangers posed by landmines dating back to Croatia’s war of independence in the early 1990s, even though experts say the areas are clearly marked.
The Serbian minister in charge of the government’s working committee on migrants, Aleksandar Vulin, argued that the closure of the border by Hungary was unsustainable for Serbia.
Hungary has said it could extend its fence to the border with Romania – a possible new route.
Romania said this would violate the “European spirit” of co-operation.
Serbia’s presidential jet went into a sudden plunge on a flight to Rome last week when the co-pilot tried to mop up a coffee spill, an inquiry found.
President Tomislav Nikolic and other passengers were reportedly thrown around the 34-year-old Falcon 50’s cabin before the captain managed to regain control.
Coffee was spilt on the control panel and the co-pilot mistakenly disengaged the autopilot when trying to mop it up.
Tomislav Nikolic had been heading to Rome on April 17 for a meeting with Pope Francis.
The jet later turned back to Belgrade. The plane landed safely back in the Serbian capital, but the president was forced to cancel his official visit to meet Pope Francis in the Vatican, and his advisers put the incident down to yet another malfunction on the ageing, incident-prone aircraft.
Co-pilot Bojan Zoric has been suspended after the inquiry found he had “accidentally activated the emergency switch”. That caused the plane to plunge from a height of 34,000 feet.
One of the Falcon’s three engines shut down because of the sudden drop in altitude, but it was quickly restarted.
Liberland is the name of a new European country established by Czech national Vit Jedlicka.
The new country on “no man’s land” is located at the border of Serbia and Croatia.
Vit Jedlicka, a member of the conservative Party of Free Citizens in the Czech Republic, is the self-appointed president of Liberland, which he says sits on unclaimed terra nullius territory wedged between Serbia and Croatia.
The 3-square-mile “country”, where taxes are optional and a military is nonexistent, does not “interfere with the territory” of the two states, according to Liberland’s website.
Liberland is located on the west bank of the Danube river between Croatia and Serbia, on land which has been subject to a decades-long border dispute and therefore, according to Vit Jedlicka, a “terra nuillius” or no man’s land, before the institution of his state on April 13.
President Vit Jedlicka is in the process of writing the country’s constitution, which, in keeping with the country’s name, “significantly limits the power of politicians so they could not interfere too much in the freedoms of the Liberland nation”.
Liberland is currently accepting applications for citizenship from applicants who: “Have respect for other people and respect the opinions of others, regardless of their race, ethnicity, orientation, or religion, have respect for private ownership, which is untouchable, do not have communist, nazi or any other extremist past, and were not punished for past criminal offences.”
Prospective citizens must send their application via email, since “in the territory of Liberland there is no physical location for mail delivery yet”.
The International Court of Justice has ruled that neither Croatia nor Serbia committed genocide against each other’s populations during the Balkan wars that followed the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
The Croatian government had alleged that Serbia committed genocide in the town of Vukovar and elsewhere in 1991.
Serbia later filed a counter-claim over the expulsion of more than 200,000 Serbs from Croatia.
About 20,000 people died during the 1991-1995 war, mostly Croatians.
The Croatian town of Vukovar was devastated when it was occupied by Serbs for three months in 1991. Tens of thousands of ethnic Croats were displaced, and about 260 Croat men were detained and killed.
Four years later, the Croatian military’s Operation Storm bombarded the majority ethnic-Serb Krajina area, forcing about 200,000 people from their homes.
Speaking in UN’s highest court on February 3, Judge Peter Tomka dismissed both the Croatian claim and the Serbian counter-claim.
Forces on both sides had carried out violent acts during the war, Judge Tomka said. However, neither side had provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate the “specific intent required for acts of genocide”.
Serbia’s main power plant is being threatened by the worst floods in the Balkans for decades, officials say.
The River Sava has burst its banks in many areas and water levels are expected to peak later on Sunday.
At least 20 people have died in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina after a month’s worth of rain fell in three days, and the death toll is expected to rise.
In Bosnia, landslides have buried houses and disturbed landmines laid during the war in the 1990s.
The floods are also affecting Croatia.
The River Sava has burst its banks in many areas and water levels are expected to peak
In Serbia, thousands of residents in Obrenovac were moved to safety after much of the town was inundated.
The town, south-west of the capital Belgrade, is home to the Nikola Tesla power plant, which supplies much of the country.
Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic said that his government’s primary concern was to protect the power plant.
“We are doing all we can,” he said.
Thousands of volunteers have responded to the government’s appeal to build up flood defenses along the Sava.
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic also appealed for help.
“Support for everyone! Let’s help those in danger! Join the aid action!” he wrote on his Twitter account.
Officials have refused to give a death toll for Obrenovac until the floodwaters recede.
Almost one-third of Bosnia is under water. The north-east is worst affected, with houses, roads and railway lines submerged.
Bosnian Serb police chief Gojko Vasic said the situation had been particularly difficult in Doboj “because the flood waters acted as a tsunami, three to four metres high”, the Reuters news agency reported.
Bosnian Security Ministry spokesman Admir Malagic said that about one million people – more than a quarter of the country’s population – live in the affected area.
Chairman of the Bosnian three-man presidency Bakir Izetbegovic said that his country is facing a “horrible catastrophe”, the Associated Press reported.
More than 20 people are feared dead in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia after the worst floods in more than a century.
Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes as several months of rain fell in a few days and rivers burst their banks.
Landslides have buried houses in Bosnia and reports say as many as 16 people may have died.
An outer suburb of the Serb capital Belgrade has been inundated and eight people are reported to have drowned.
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia have been hit by the worst floods in more than a century
Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic told reporters the first bodies had been recovered in Obrenovac, the worst-hit area to the south-west of the capital, and he feared more would be found.
But he said the number of deaths would not be made public until the waters had receded.
A new flood surge was expected on the Sava River late on Sunday, he said.
In some areas, flood waters reached the second floor of people’s homes.
“The flash floods woke my uncle at around 0330 so they went up to the first floor. Then they had to go to the third floor because all lower floors were flooded,” one resident from Obrenovac said.
Rescue workers have been working to bring thousands of stranded residents to safety and officials have also ordered the evacuation of another town, Baric, closer to Belgrade.
The Sava River has risen particularly high in the western town of Sabac, and volunteers have tried to shore up flood defenses there.
Rescue co-ordinator Predrag Maric appealed for food, water, and clothing to help those in need.
One of the worst-hit areas in Bosnia is the eastern town of Bijeljina where rescue teams are trying to transport 10,000 people to safety.
Among those who drowned were 10 people in the Bosnian Serb Republic, police told local media. Six bodies were found in the northern town of Doboj and there are fears that more people have lost their lives.
Serbia is holding a state funeral for Yugoslavia’s last king, Peter II, and three other members of his family.
King Peter II acceded to the throne in 1941, aged 17, but fled 11 days later when the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia. He never returned and died in the US in 1970.
The funeral is also being held for his wife, Queen Alexandria, his mother Queen Maria, and brother Prince Andrew.
After the memorial service, they will be buried in the family mausoleum.
Serb leaders and foreign dignitaries were attending Sunday’s service, at St George’s Church in Oplenac, near Belgrade.
The coffins of the four members of the royal family were laid out in the centre of the church before they were to be placed in the crypt, alongside their ancestors.
King Peter II had originally been interred in Libertyville, Illinois, his wife in Greece and his mother near Windsor Castle in the UK.
Serbia is holding a state funeral for Yugoslavia’s last king, Peter II, and three other members of his family
President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Ivica Dacic were both involved in the preparations for the funeral.
Although modern-day Serbia has the royal coat of arms on its flag, the attitudes of Serbs towards their old royal family is hard to gauge.
Peter went to school in England but returned home aged 11 when his father, King Alexander I, was assassinated in France in 1934. His brother, Prince Pavle, became Prince Regent until he was overthrown in a military coup for signing a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany.
For almost 50 years it was part of socialist Yugoslavia. At the end of World War II, Iosip Broz Tito’s communists abolished the monarchy.
“Most people would say it’s doing historical justice to a dynasty that was chased away from Serbia in 1945,” says historian Vladimir Dulovic.
“Except maybe today, by spending 50 years out of the country, they’ve grown a little too foreign for us.”
King Peter II’s son, Alexander Karadjordjevic, often described as crown prince, moved to Serbia in 2001.
An enthusiastic promoter of constitutional monarchy for Serbia, Alexander Karadjordjevic argues that a king removed from the country’s sometimes fractious politics would be a stabilizing figure.
However, According to a recent newspaper poll, only around 40% of Serbs agree.
In October 2012, three other members of Yugoslavia’s former royal family were exhumed in Switzerland and reburied in the Oplenac church crypt.
Yugoslavia’s royal family:
1804 Founder of dynasty, Djordje Petrovic, known as Karadjordjevic or “Black George”, leads Serb uprising against Ottomans
1811 Karadjordjevic confirmed as ruler
1918 Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes proclaimed
1929 Kingdom of Yugoslavia declared
1934 King Alexander I assassinated in Marseille
1941 King Peter II goes into exile
1945 Crown Prince Alexander II born in London. Iosip Broz Tito’s communists abolish monarchy
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