Seselj is trying to prove that the Serbian Radical Party volunteers were under the command of the JNA or the VRS – and not him – on the battlefields in Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina, in an effort to deny he had command responsibility. This despite the fact that he is not charged with it at all

Vojislav Seselj in the courtroomVojislav Seselj in the courtroom

As the cross-examination of protected witness VS 004 continued today, Vojislav Seselj told the judges there was ‘an essential difference’ between the period before the JNA joined in the conflict in Croatia, and the following period.

Seselj’s claims that he as Chetnik war leader , vojvoda¸ commanded the Serbian Radical Party volunteers and designated targets for their guerrilla attacks referred to the period before the JNA joined in the conflict in Croatia, he explained. According to Seselj, this happened in September 1991. After that, the SRS volunteers were under the command of the JNA. They got paid by the JNA, the time they spent on the front was credited as years of service in wartime, if they were wounded they could get veteran disability, and if they got killed, a military band would play at their funeral and there would be a JNA gun salute.

The same applies to the SRS volunteers in BH from the beginning of the war to 19 May 1992, when the JNA officially pulled out and when the VRS was established. After that, the volunteers, ‘unarmed and in civilian clothes’, went to help their brethren on the other side of the Drina river. They reported to the local Territorial Defense or to the VRS headquarters, who admitted them into their ranks, issued them with uniforms and arms, assigned them in their units placed them under their command.

This defense would have made more sense if Seselj were charged with failure to prevent or punish the crimes committed by volunteers subordinated to him. But Seselj is charged only on the basis of individual criminal responsibility for participation in a joint criminal enterprise. His role was drafting, indoctrinating and directing the volunteers and instigating the perpetration of crimes by those volunteers. According to the indictment, the participants in the joint criminal enterprise included the JNA, the VRS and the Serbian Territorial Defense in Croatia and BH. After September 1991, Seselj turned the command of the volunteers he had drafted over to these formations.

Protected witness VS 004, a former official of the Serbian autonomous district of Western Slavonia and a member of Serbian Democratic Party in Croatia, confirmed all of Seselj’s arguments about the relationship between the SRS volunteers and the JNA, as well as his claims about the ordeal of the Serbs in Croatia, from the Jasenovac camp in 1941-1945, on to the Medak pocket in 1993 and finally to operations Flash and Storm in 1995. The only thing the witness didn’t confirm was Seselj’s claim that the Serbian authorities in Knin had complied with the Vance plan, which called for a political resolution of the Serbian question in Croatia. In Knin, ‘they were not in favor of serious negotiations and they did not take the opportunity for a peaceful resolution of the problem’.

At the beginning of the hearing today, the witness admitted he didn’t want to testify against Seselj because of ‘unpleasant incidents in the streets of Belgrade’. He had asked for protective measures because of his ‘family’s safety’. As his cross-examination drew to a close, Seselj suggested there had been no reason for the protection of the witness’s identity because ‘nobody could criticize him for what he said’. VS 004 is the first witness Seselj didn’t accuse of lying.