As the parliamentary poll comes closer Vojislav Seselj‘s hunger strike makes good publicity for the Serbian Radical Party. He is accused of committing crimes against humanity as the leader of a paramilitary force during the civil war in Bosnia & Herzegovina. After all, most of the charges relate to verbal delicti when he influenced the mases to join the war as he allegedly held many hateful speeches during the conflict. Four years have passed since he went to the international court for war crimes in the Hague until the start of the trial. Now, Seselj pleas for basic human rights like normal jail visits of his family members and the right to defend himself in court.
In a post titled “Seselj: A Hero Without a Sandwich,” Queeria describes his “sympathy” for this political leader (SRP):
[…] Hero and victim, son and father of the nation, a strongman, [both] Gandhi and Mandela…they call Seselj this way. Thousands of people came to support [the idea] at the rally [in front of the American Embassy in Belgrade last week]. They gathered once again in support of the Serbian victim. Of course, during recent wars and regimes, there were thousands of Serbian victims. […]
I get confused when seeing [poor working-class people] demonstrating in support of Seselj policies. Those very same policies brought them to the edge of social disaster. […]
[He] won the position of a hero when he volunteered to go to the Hague Tribunal. It was a great farewell for the [brave man] going somewhere to [show them all], have a cup of coffee and come back. He didn’t make it, and that is why he tries to find different ways to return, which is allowed. […] What seems to be the issue here? How many people die of famine […] and the lack of medications annually? How many of refugees are there? How many people don’t want to enter this country because of Seselj and his counterparts? […]
I keep thinking about the fact pointed out by Goran Svilanovic during Utisak Nedelje show: that this Seselj case is used as part of a political campaign of the Radicals for the upcoming elections. That’s why I stay immune to pictures coming towards me: the notion of a great national man whose strength is fading; his children; his wife; his friends. And I am not ashamed!
I feel shame only when I come across the pain and suffering which is not wanted or is committed in front of me! […]
Only as a result of his own actions did Seselj take the risk for his own life – and that’s his personal decision. […]
Ana WithAFamily contributes with her opinion on the matter:
If the doctors treating a patient have the EU license, then they should implement ethical codes based on four principles:
1. Respect for personal autonomy when a patient makes a decision. This means that everyone competent enough to decide (more than 16/18 years old, sane, aware of surroundings and not under influence of alcohol or narcotics) has the right to choose even what doesn’t appear logical for the doctor. Applied to Seselj, he has got the right to refuse any kind of food.
2. Justice – it relates to the universal rules against discrimination, misuse and exploitation of a patient. From the medical point of view, this is not applicable to Seselj case.
3. Beneficence – it is a duty of the medical staff to help those in need. This principle often collides with the other three. Principles are noted according to importance and there is no doubt Seselj’s decision about hunger strike should be respected (except if his competence fails).
4 Non-malfeasance – […] Doctors are prohibited from actively taking part in procedures that might harm the patient's health. […]
I wish the public would know these rules of conduct in medical profession. If you have any way to spread this further than blogs, please do that. I am sure that people deserve to know this.
Let me sum it up. The decision is strictly his own. If one man holds to his own principles and is ready to give his life for his ideas, I hail that. […]
Milic i Milic thinks Seselj is the one who misuses his own human rights for a political struggle (SRP):
[…] They often say that his family members’ right to visit [Vojislav] is taken away. This is not true. They introduced temporary measures of better supervision during the visits for 30 days. The next noted example of violating Seselj’s human rights is not letting him […] freely appoint the lawyer. When Seselj started with hunger strike on Oct. 30, he got back the right of personal defense, the one that was taken from him because of court obstruction. The court insisted that Seselj’s legal defenders meet minimal criteria, [it means they need to] have some kind of certificate that enables them to take the role of a legal adviser (can you bring a plumber to defend you in front of any local court in Serbia?).
[…] Former law faculty dean, Oliver Antic, used one metaphor yesterday at a Radical P'sarty press conference: “Would you take part in sharpening the stick they want to use for your own execution? He doesn’t want to take part in his personal lynching, he doesn’t want to live two or three years more without the [basic] human rights, he wants to be a hero.”
[…] Tribunal board instructed the Dutch authorities on how to handle the new situation by calling to the rules of international law and medical ethics. Among other things, the instruction states: “The Trial Chamber…orders the authorities of the Kingdom of the Netherlands… to provide medical services…which may, in the case of medical necessity, include intervention such as drip-feeding – with the aim of protecting the health and welfare of the accused and avoiding loss of life, to the extent that such services are not contrary to compelling internationally accepted standards of medical ethics or binding rules of international law… to ensure that the medical professionals providing care to the accused seek professional advice, both in terms of specialized medical expertise and ethics, domestically and internationally, and not limited to the medical expertise invoked by the accused when considering whether or not to medically intervene or to continue medical services….”[…] “…according to jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, ‘force-feeding’ does not constitute torture, inhuman or degrading treatment if there is a medical necessity to do so, if procedural guarantees for the decision to force-feed are complied with and if the manner in which the detainee is force-fed is not inhumane or degrading”. […]
In her post called “Fatherly Insight,” Lucy Moore describes people who came to protest against “the political court” and for freedom of Vojislav Seselj in front of the American Embassy last week:
“Lucy, be careful. Those people can be dangerous.” That was my father's reaction when I mentioned passing the Serbian Radical Party's demonstration held in honor of Vojslav Seselj on my way into town Saturday. When I thought about the characters I saw as I wandered through the edge of the crowd gathered outside the US Embassy – a frail old woman, head covered in a scarf, cane in hand; a tacky, scantily clad twenty-something female dressed more for a nightclub than a political demonstration; and a young orthodox priest, swallowed by his flowing, black garb – I scoffed at this warning. Collectively these characters embodied the strange bedfellows represented by the Radical Party, but as individuals they each seemed more comical than threatening.
When it comes to Seselj and his role in Serbian politics, however, I'm not sure if a light chuckle is the most appropriate response. The man's story is pretty incredible (this will be nothing new for local readers, but worth repeating for those of you who have failed to keep up with Serbia's political scene). Now known internationally for his crimes against humanity, he was once the youngest PhD recipient in Yugoslavia. As a professor in Sarajevo, he developed a reputation for his nationalism and was even dubbed the “Duke of Četniks” on the 600th anniversary of the battle of Kosovo, while traveling through, ironically enough, the United States. Perhaps taking this title a bit too seriously, he formed a nationalist political party and a paramilitary force in the early 1990s. Ten years and a handful of war crimes later, he's turned himself over to the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, but has recently brought his trial to a halt as he is now on hunger strike in the name of spousal visits and self-selected legal representation (a less legitimate request than it seems given his record of harassing witness while representing himself in court). Now French doctors are being specially brought in to treat this man who, despite likely kidney failure, has refused to be seen by Dutch medical staff. Serbian news sources provide the public with daily updates on his health status, and reports of his hunger strike have made it into international news (New York Times, BBC). All this has conveniently aligned with the start of campaigns for Serbia's upcoming parliamentary elections, and who is the top listed member for the party holding the most seats in the current parliament? None other than the Duke of Četniks himself.
All in all, I cannot figure out how best to interpret this hubbub around Seselj. The whole thing makes for an absolutely ridiculous story, but when I remember that the “story” is non-fiction and the these “characters” at the demonstration are real Serbs with real perceptions and real voting power, should I be more scared than entertained?
According to an article run earlier in the week on B92.net, the former Slovenian Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro warned that [Seselj], with his antics in the Hague, should not be underestimated as a threat to democracy in Serbia. In contrast, however, I've generally heard Belgrade citizens just shrug off the whole thing. One described it all as the nationalists’ last stand, based more on hot air and theatrics than any real political strength. Another just lamented the continuation of the tension she remembered between Belgrade citizens and the crowds in attendance at Milosevic's rallies in the 1990s.
And maybe that is all Seselj and the nationalist trend really amounts to – a carry over from the 1990s that will ebb as more time is put between current Serbia and the Milošević years. But I still found the face of a war criminal plastered all over the capital city a bit unsettling, not to mention the sheer number of people that turned out for his rally.
My father's words of warning were meant in regards to my physical wellbeing, but are perhaps better applied elsewhere. I doubt the degree to which Seselj and his party are any real threat to my personal safety or that of any foreigner in Serbia – though he is know for threatening internationals before the Serbian parliament (“If we cannot grab all their [NATO] planes, we can grab those within our reach, like various Helsinki committees, and Quisling groups.” – Human Rights Watch Report). Instead it seems that those most at risk in the whole situation are the supporters of the Serbian Radical Party themselves, those being manipulated by a hand now shriveling away in Holland. But I've been told again and again that Serbia is unpredictable, so I suppose only time will tell.