Seselj Urges Action Over Ex-Detention Unit Officer
Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj this week urged the Hague tribunal to take action against the former commanding officer of the United Nations detention unit in The Hague for allegedly disclosing personal details about ex-Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic to a United States diplomat.
Seselj’s remarks – in a report to tribunal president Judge Patrick Robinson – were related to a reportedly leaked diplomatic cable where Clifford Johnson, of the United States embassy in The Hague, allegedly detailed statements that former commanding officer Timothy McFadden is said to have made about Milosevic.
“Milosevic could manipulate a nation, [McFadden] said, but struggled to maintain his wife who, on the contrary, seemed to exert just such a pull on him,” the alleged cable stated about Milosevic’s daily phone conversations with his wife, Mirjana Markovic.
The said cable goes on to describe Milosevic’s “nearly photogenic memory”, his supposed narcissism, as well as his state of health and daily routine. In addition, the alleged cable mentions his taste in music and books, which included Frank Sinatra and “pot boiler thrillers”.
Seselj claims that “by sending the information to US agencies and state organs, [McFadden] caused serious prejudice to the reputation and the work of the [tribunal]”. He said that if Judge Robinson doesn’t take action “commensurate” with the allegations at hand, “the already poor international reputation of the [tribunal] will be ruined further”.
Seselj then listed numerous rules enacted at both the tribunal and the detention unit, known as the UNDU, and described how McFadden allegedly broke them.
The reported details about Milosevic’s relationship with his wife were “a scandalous disclosure about the private relationship between spouses”, he alleged, and went on to note that it is “normal for spouses to call each other every day”.
He concluded by urging Judge Robinson to take action on the matter, or “it will be clear that the [tribunal] is under the same jurisdiction as the Guantanamo camp/military court”.
Detained at the UNDU since 2003, Seselj is charged with nine counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity – including murder, torture and forcible transfer – for atrocities carried out in an effort to expel the non-Serb population from parts of Croatia and Bosnia between August 1991 and September 1993. He remains leader of the Serbian Radical Party, SRS, based in Belgrade.
Seselj’s trial has endured repeated delays since it officially began in November 2007, a full year after the original trial date was postponed due to the accused’s hunger strike. In addition, he was found guilty of contempt in July 2009 for revealing confidential details about protected witnesses in one of the books he authored. The accused is set to face yet another contempt trial on similar charges.
Fellow accused Radovan Karadzic has already used the alleged leaked cable as a basis for requesting that his phone calls no longer be monitored by court officials, as is standard for all detainees.
In a January 28 motion, Karadzic claimed that the way McFadden disclosed the information on Milosevic was “shocking and disturbing.
“It is unknown to what extent, if any, officials of the United Nations detention unit or registrar have discussed with third parties information obtained in whole or in part through the monitoring or recording of Dr Karadzic’s conversations,” he stated.
Karadzic further requested that the registrar obtain a statement under oath from the current commander of the detention unit, and all commanders since July 2008, “setting forth all instances in which they discussed Dr Karadzic’s case with persons outside of the registry and in the information revealed in those discussions”.
The president of the tribunal has yet to respond to Karadzic’s request.
At a press conference on January 26, chief of the registrar’s office Martin Petrov told journalists that “at this point, the tribunal is unable to confirm the authenticity of the report but the matter is being looked into.
“A preliminary analysis of the alleged cable indicates that many of the issues raised in it were already in the public domain”.
For example, he said that “details about the daily routine of [tribunal] detainees have been available to the public for years”.
Petrov stressed “that the tribunal has clear confidentiality rules, which apply to all, including and especially to staff members. Alleged breaches of confidentiality are always investigated and appropriate action taken”.
Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.