The Trial Chamber has decided that the trial of the Serbian Radical Party leader should continue at the point where it stopped: the parties’ closing arguments, but not before the new judge Niang acquaints himself with the case. This will take at least six months

Vojislav Seselj in the courtroomVojislav Seselj in the courtroom

At first, when Vojislav Seselj’s motion for the disqualification of Danish judge Harhoff was granted it seemed as if the accused had won a small victory. Now, the situation appears in a different light: the Trial Chamber has decided that the trial will continue but the accused will have to await the judgment, which has had to be postponed, in the detention unit.

When Judge Harhoff was disqualified, Judge Niang from Senegal took his place. The Trial Chamber, once it had the full complement of judges, had to decide how to continue the trial. The judges invited the parties to submit their opinion. Seselj demanded that the proceedings against him be suspended, called for his ‘urgent and prompt’ release and damages to the amount of 12 million euros. The prosecution proposed that the trial continue from the point where it stopped: the judges were deliberating the verdict.

The Trial Chamber’s decision is closer to the prosecution’s proposal. The trial will continue and the new judge will be given enough time to familiarize himself with the case file. When the new judge is ready, the trial will continue from the point when both parties rested their cases and presented their closing arguments. The Trial Chamber will then start its deliberations.

Judge Niang has answered the question when it might happen in his separate assenting opinion. As he said, he will conscientiously read all the 17,539 pages of the transcripts, examine about 1,400 exhibits and watch ‘hundreds of hours’ of video recordings to assess the witnesses’ credibility. Although he couldn’t guarantee it, the judge said he would try to get acquainted with the case in six months, following the Tribunal’s winter recess.

The trial schedule has been worked out on the basis of the Trial Chamber’s decision: Judge Niang will take at least from mid-January to mid-July 2014 to acquaint himself with the case. The judges will then start their deliberations, which will take another couple of months. This means that Seselj’s victory in the Harhoff case in fact delayed the trial judgment for up to a year. The judgment in Seselj’s case was initially scheduled for 30 October 2013.

Other members of the Trial Chamber are Italian judge Lattanzi and presiding judge Antonetti from France. Judge Antonetti attached his separate assenting opinion to the decision on the continuation of the proceedings.

Vojislav Seselj is charged with crimes against non-Serbs in Croatia, Vojvodina and BH. He has been in the Tribunal’s Detention Unit since March 2003.