- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

BELGRADE, Serbia - Montenegro, Feb. 23 (UPI) — Thousands of supporters rallied in Belgrade Sunday for a send-off to Serbian extremist Vojislav Seselj who says he'll surrender to a war crimes court Monday. The Radical Party leader has been indicted by the Hague U.N. tribunal for crimes inside and outside Serbia in the early 1990s.

Seselj told an estimated 10,000-strong crowd: "I'll be away on business to pull the tribunal apart and score a victory." He also said that in the tribunal he would reveal an international anti-Serbian conspiracy.

The indictment, confirmed by Judge O-Gon Kwon on Feb. 14, charges Seselj with crimes against humanity and breaches of the laws and customs of war while participating in a joint criminal enterprise from August 1991 until September 1993. Its aim was forcible and permanent removal of the Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb populations from parts of the former Yugoslav territories of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in order to make these areas part of a new Serb-dominated state.

He specifically recruited, financed, supplied and directed his party's volunteers, commonly known as "Chetniks" or "Seseljevci" and instigated them to commit crimes with violence and brutality against those ethnic groups in Croatia and Bosnia, according to the indictment.

It added that he incited his followers and local authorities in public speeches to undertake a persecution and expulsion campaign against the local Croat population in parts of Serbia's Vojvodina province.

This is the first time the tribunal has brought charges for crimes against an ethnic group in Serbia itself. The indictment asserts that Seselj bears individual criminal responsibility for murder, extermination, persecution on political, racial or religious grounds, deportation, imprisonment, torture, wanton destruction of religious and educational institutions, plunder of public and private property and other inhumane acts committed in the course of achieving his aims.

But Seselj said he'll demonstrate his innocence and prove that the 10,000 volunteers who called themselves "Seseljevci" had perpetrated no crimes whatever and acquitted themselves on all fronts with honor.

Serbia's regular forces and paramilitaries withdrew from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo at the end of the last decade. But Seselj said on Sunday: "I will go there (to the tribunal) in defiance and tell them that the Serbian people will not draw back from liberating Serbian territories."

He cited among these territories the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik and the (now defunct) Republic of Serbian Krajina in Croatia, Republika Srpska (the Serbian enclave in Bosnia), and Kosovo.

Seselj urged his backers not to let former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, his wartime army commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic and other prominent Serb war crimes indictees be turned over to the tribunal by what he called the country's "Mafia" leaders, outgoing Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.

Numerous blue flags of the Serbian Radical Party interspersed with its wartime black flags with a skull and crossbones emblem fluttered in a bitter cold wind. The crowd frequently interrupted Seselj's speech chanting "Vojo, Vojo" (his pet name) and raising both their arms to be counted.

There were also banners of ex-Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party, which had called out its members to give Seselj a comradely farewell. One young Socialist said: "I hope Voja will bring back Sloba (Milosevic) from The Hague."

Seselj, backed by Milosevic from his cell in the Hague tribunal, reaped more than a third of the 3 million votes cast against incumbent Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica in last December's failed Serbian presidential election.

Some analysts wonder if Seselj's decision to surrender to the tribunal is genuine — or a hoax intended to boost his following.

The government is obliged to comply with the indictment, arrest him and turn him over to The Hague if he defaults. But he can always invoke his immunity from arrest and prosecution as a member of parliament under the existing law.

The dilemma will be resolved early on Monday when, he said, he would board a commercial flight to the Netherlands, for which he bought a ticket two weeks ago. But a TV report on Sunday said he doesn't have a Dutch entry visa and mightn't be allowed to board the plane.


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