Serbian Extremist Šešelj Fails to Hold Controversial Rally

By 6 May 2018

ZAGREB, May 6, 2018 - Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Šešelj said in Jarak on Sunday he came to provoke the regime and not to intimidate Croats in Hrtkovci, a village in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina. "None of the Croats in Hrtkovci are in danger," he told a press conference he held in front of a police cordon, adding that Croats made up only 10% of the village population.

After being banned from holding a rally in Hrtkovci today, Šešelj said he had the right to provoke the regime as the opposition did everywhere in the world and that today's rally in Jarak was such an act of provocation.

In the village of Jarak, dozens of police blocked the road to Hrtkovci, 7 km away, where the SRS had announced a rally. Hrtkovci has a population of 3,300 – 60% are Serbs, 30% Hungarians and 10% Croats.

Numerous news crews, including Croatian reporters, arrived in Jarak, as did several hundred SRS members and supporters.

All access to Hrtkovci was blocked on Saturday and the blockade will last until midnight today in response to rallies announced by the SRS, as well as the Vojvodina League of Social Democrats and the Democratic Party, which said they wanted to stage a rally against Šešelj's policy of intimidation and provocation.

Despite bans from the state authorities, Šešelj said yesterday the Radicals would come to Hrtkovci on the 26th anniversary of a rally which preceded the expulsion of Croats from Vojvodina. The village has become a byword for the expulsion of Vojvodina Croats after a 6 May 1992 Radicals rally at which Šešelj read out the names of undesirable local Croats. In the following days, about 700 residents left the village due to pressure and threats.

Today, he said no one was killed or persecuted in Hrtkovci, that only the names of those who had already left were read out, and that the names were not read out by him but an SRS member. "Hrtkovci was a response to the expulsion of Serbs from Croatia," Šešelj said, adding that he was not convicted of war crimes but of inciting to expulsion.

Asked when Serbia and Croatia would have good relations, he said "there will be no good relations with Croatia until the Serb Krajina is liberated." Serb Krajina was a self-proclaimed and unrecognised “state” formed by Serb rebels on the occupied part of Croatia’s territory in the 1990s.

After the press conference, Šešelj and his supporters dispersed and left Jarak for Belgrade.

Last month, the Appeals Chamber of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, the successor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, sentenced Šešelj to ten years' imprisonment for crimes against humanity over the inflammatory speech in Hrtkovci which it found resulted in the deportation, persecution, displacement and other inhumane acts against Vojvodina Croats. Šešelj did not have to go to jail because the time he spent in detention in The Hague was credited to the sentence.