By Niklas Jakobsson
The process of me writing this weekly column is simple: I observe social media for a week, find an interesting and well-discussed topic and summarise what’s happened. This week, however, my inspiration came from a part of social media which I never really interact with: Instagram.
These days, all of the major institutions with some sort of social media presence. The International Criminal Court has a varying track-record of using social media, the ICTY provides an update on the daily court schedule, as does the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. So international justice institutions have their ways of disseminating messages to the broader public. But how about alleged war criminals?
In steps Vojislav Seselj, a man accused of war crimes at the ICTY and currently residing in Serbia. Stumbling on his Instagram account was probably one of the most bizarre experiences during my time covering the courts and tribunals. It yet again highlights the lack of restrictions put on his provisional release for ill health.
But I’m not going to give you a rundown of my weekly social media experience. Last week, the Seselj case flared up again at the ICTY. But it wasn’t the main player himself who came under fire. The tribunal unsealed three indictments for witness tampering related to three of Seselj’s associates. According to ICTY documents, the three associates “have been charged with contempt of the Tribunal for allegedly having threatened, intimidated, offered bribes to or otherwise interfered with two witnesses”.
Two of the arrest warrants relate to threatening and bribing witnesses, allegedly carried out by defence lawyers. This seems to be yet another case in a worrying increase of indictments related to witness tampering at the international courts and tribunals.
The arrest warrants were sent out at the beginning of 2015, yet the Serbian authorities have failed to produce the three suspects and hand them over to the ICTY. The unsealing of the warrants can definitely be seen as a way for the ICTY to put pressure on the Serbian government for failing to cooperate – something which they have been obliged to do since the inception of the tribunal.
But arrest warrants and potential new cases at the international courts and tribunals don’t come without questions about whether what’s being suggested is possible or not.
Regardless of the outcome, the story has yet again raised the issues related to the Seselj case, him roaming around freely in Serbia (posting the occasional selfie), and the Tribunal’s apparent inability to bring him back him and bring his three associates in front of the judges. As the ICTY is soon coming to a close, this could be a blot on its record, as employees and civil society alike work on how to highlight its legacy.
· What are the reasons for Serbia’s unwillingness to cooperate?
· Do you think Seselj will ever stand before the ICTY judges again?
· Will this affect the ICTY’s legacy?