It is not quite clear who was the challenger for a duel that was considered almost a matter of honour. Therefore, we do not know which of the two was the one who offered the possibility of selecting a weapon: a pistol, a rifle or even just hands.
Only three things are certain: the critical invitation was issued in 1993, the planned duel place was the capital of Serbia Belgrade, and the participants were film director Emir Kusturica and the then influential Serbian politician, Dr. Vojislav Šešelj.
It was the latter, then already a close associate of the Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević, who rejected the duel. Almost exactly ten years later, it was on Sunday, February 23, 2003, Šešelj explained that he could have accepted the duel, but that he proposed a prisoner of a Belgrade criminal underworld called Lale Robija to participate instead of Kusturica, because allegedely he could not just kill the artist. And also because he often asked himself how did the officer d ‘ Anthes feel when, also on the duel, because of his love for Pushkin’s wife, he furiously wounded the famous Russian writer.
Of course, the reason for the anger of the famous director, the favourite of the most prestigious film festivals, awarded the most prestigious awards, as well as his dispute with politician Šešelj, did not have a very direct connection with love, fidelity and ecstasy.
Even then, some hinted even this. And they were partially, at least as far as fidelity is concerned, right.
In the autumn of 1993, Šešelj had a political break with Milošević. Šešelj was a very useful tool, he was a politician who could tell exactly what Milošević at first did not dare and then could not tell. At the same time, he had a political program that persuaded a broad audience of listeners, and which, with Milošević’s support, received a terrific possibility of public promotion and access to election boxes everywhere where the number of convinced voters was insufficient. Whenever Šešelj repeated that Serbia had to place its western borders on the Ogulin-Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag line, it was always followed by Milošević’s convictions that he appreciated him very much, because he was a rare Serb politician and a leader of the party who was consistent. They were close allies.
As Šešelj testified, the doors of all police and military warehouses were completely open to him back then.
He had at his disposal all the necessary military and police logistics. Because of this, he could practically train as well as arm volunteers who went to rob and kill at Slavonija, Bosnia and Vojvodina on their campaigns. That was the case until autumn 1993, when Šešelj wanted more.
He established a shadow government. It was too much.
The duel was then scheduled against him by Milošević’s wife, Mira Marković. She published comments in a political bi-weekly “Duga”, which had to be read because they not only announced who were the targets of current politics and who could start to fear for their lives, but they also unmistakably announced the key decisions of Serbian internal and foreign policy.
The wife then wrote that the former leader’s partner, Šešelj, is not a Serb at all, that he was Turkish in the worst sense of the word, in the most primitive historical edition, and that he was most likely not a man.
Soon after, he was imprisoned.
After leaving the prison, his first statement was that Milošević was the greatest criminal and enemy of Serbia. He planned a coup and had connections with certain Yugoslav army officers, however, secret services revealed plans. Nevertheless, Milošević did not allow him to be imprisoned again. One of the long-time chiefs of the Serbian State Security Service, Zoran Mijatović, later recounted that Šešelj was monitored long before his political ascent, because they suspected that he transferred information about Serbian opposition intellectuals and their plans for resolving the Yugoslav issue to the state security services of the former Bosnia and Herzegovina under the codename “Magistar” (eng. master).
In 1996, Milošević and Šešelj re-established political alliance, then almost as equal partners, which they preserved in Hague prisons.
The international tribunal, whose task is to close all court proceedings that remained upon closing down the International War Crimes Tribunal in the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, cancelled the first instance acquittal in the appeals procedure on April 11, 2018 and sentenced Šešelj to 10 years in prison. At the same time, the judges decided that he already served the sentence during the period of detention in which he was from 2003 to 2016 when he was returned home due to illness.
When in December 1992, US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger called for the establishment of a war crimes court for crimes in the former Yugoslavia, he specifically named both Milošević and Šešelj. Both knew what awaited them after the fall of the regime, with the difference that the first assessed that, as the president of the state, no new democratic government would hand him over to the Hague Tribunal, while the latter that it would be possible to quickly remove the government of Dr. Zoran Đinđića, and certainly before the court indictment are handed over.
At first instance, The Hague Tribunal acquitted Šešelj of all charges. Even those related to hate speech and instigation. That Wednesday, he was convicted. The difference between the first judges’ justification on why he is not guilty and the one from day before yesterday, on why he is guilty, is crucial.
At the first trial, the Hague judges estimated that the plan for forming a Greater Serbia was only a political program that did not have any features of the crime, and now, at day before yesterday’s verdict, the judges pointed out, with the conviction of Šešelj the immediate connection of the plans for a greater state and war. That without the war it would not be possible to achieve plans for greater states, the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the full resettlement of the ethnically impure population that was discussed by Serbian and Croatian President Milošević and Dr. Franjo Tuđman at a secret meeting in Karađorđevo.