March 16, 2016 / 11:13 AM / 2 years ago

Hague drops summons for Serb suspect, averting stand-off

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Judges averted a potential stand-off between the European Union and Serbia on Wednesday by excusing a war crimes suspect from returning to The Hague for his verdict because he needed medical treatment unavailable there.

Serbian nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj speaks during a news conference inside his Serbian Radical Party headquarters in Belgrade, April 2, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

The decision, overturning an earlier compulsory court summons for nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj, avoided the risk of a confrontation that could have led to EU sanctions on Serbia for failing to carry out the summons.

Seselj, accused of using firebrand nationalist rhetoric to incite persecution and murder during the wars that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia, is popular among some of the right-wing government’s supporters, who would protest his extradition.

Judges said they had received confidential information on Seselj’s health from Serbian authorities which had led them to lift their order for him to be present for his verdict on March 31.

“It appears from Serbia’s response that the medical treatment can neither be interrupted nor carried out in The Hague,” judges wrote.

In 2014, the nationalist politician was released conditionally on medical grounds by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, but was summoned back when he violated a court order to stay out of public life.

“I will not go voluntarily to The Hague. Whether they’ll carry me to the airport or something else, I do not know,” Seselj said in Belgrade on Tuesday.

The climb-down comes a week before the court rules in the case against wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, charged with genocide for his role in the early 1990s Bosnian war in which 100,000 were killed as ethnic Serbs and Croats carved ethnically pure statelets out of multiethnic Bosnia.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam, additional reporting by Ivana Sekularac in Belgrade; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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