The sentence against Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), has confirmed what the representatives of the Croatian people, as well as the families of the victims and part of the NGOs have been claiming for years; that is the crimes against the Croats in Vojvodina did take plaxe – Tomislav Zigmanov, the president of the Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Croats (DSHV) told IBNA.
At the same time, Marko Kljajic, a Roman-Catholic priest from Hrtkovci village, told us that the sentence was a “setup” and a “political farce”.
On Wednesday, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals based in The Hague convicted Seselj in 10 years in prison, after finding him guilty for persecution and of inciting the persecution of the Croats in Hrtkovci village, the Serbian Autonomous Province of Vojvodina in 1990s. However, Seselj will not go to jail because he has already spent more than 11 years in detention, during the trial in the Hague.
“The crimes against Croats in Vojvodina have been denied or ignored for a long time. Now, they are recognized not at the level of particular incidents, but rather as the crimes behind which stood certain structures and certain politics”, Zigmanov said.
Simultaneously, the sentence has freed Croats from the stigma that they have been lying and supporting stereotypes against the Serbs, namely by accusing them without a reason with regards to these crimes, he added. Zigmanov underlined that Croats in Vojvodina did not show disloyalty to Serbia by any single act.
After the sentence was declared, he expects legal actions against perpetrators of the crimes, committed in Hrtkovci village and elsewhere. “Seven Croats have been deported from Kukujevci village. An investigation should be expected”, Zigmanov said.
Finally, in his words, the victims deserve memorials in Serbia.
“The sentence did not surprise me; neither did the previous one by which Seselj was acquitted. If I was in Seselj’s shoes, I would sue The Hague after having spent 11 years spent in prison following the fist instance verdict. Now we see than he is really going to sue them”, Marko Kljajic told IBNA with a touch of irony.
Kljajic expect a sentence with neither more nor less years in prison for Seselj. “If he was sentenced to more than 10 years, that would cause political problems. Seselj has said that he would not voluntarily go to The Hague and president Aleksandar Vucic and the government would not have the political will to deport him. A more severe punishment could not have been expected, for purely political reasons”, Kljajic added.
After all, as mentioned before, Marko Kljajic believes the sentence was a “setup” and a “political farce”.
In Serbia, it is widely believed that The Hague Tribunal is closely related to the United States and the European Union. Taking into account the sensitive political situation in the region -first and foremost the Kosovo issue and the influence of Russia- it is assumed that the West does not want to create problems to Vucic, who is very cooperative when it comes to resolving these issues. Seselj’s possible deportation would provoke additional tensions.
When asked whether the sentence can bring about a sense of justice to the Croats in Vojvodina, Kljajic pointed out that Seselj was not the only person responsible of past misdeeds. “He has created a political programme part of which were also the current president Aleksandar Vucic and his predecessor Tomislav Nikolic”, he explained.
File Photo: Seselj in the middle, present head of Serbia Vucic on the far left and his predecessor Tomislav Nikolic on the right.
For more than a decade, Vucic and Nikolic were Seselj’s closest allies and high officials at his party. “Everything is ugly politics. The consequence is that more than 50 percent of Croats have been deported from Hrtkovci”, Kljajic concluded…. / ΙΒΝΑ