• Sweden's news in English

Bosnian war criminal: 'I did nothing wrong'

The Local · 26 Jan 2009, 14:57

Published: 26 Jan 2009 14:57 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Together with Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian leader Biljana Plavsic is regarded as one of the masterminds behind the Balkan wars of 1991 – 2001.

She was tried by the Hague war crimes tribunal in 2001. After reversing her original “not guilty” plea to the eight prosecution charges and confessing to crimes against humanity, Plavsic was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Her sentence is being served at Hinseberg prison in Örebro in central Sweden.

But in a rare interview with a Swedish magazine, Plavsic retracted her confession.

She now claims to have pleaded guilty in an attempt to have the remaining charges against her, including those of genocide, dropped.

“I sacrificed myself. I have done nothing wrong. I pleaded guilty to crimes against humanity so I could bargain for the other charges. If I hadn't, the trial would have lasted three, three and-a-half years. Considering my age that wasn't an option,” the now 79-year-old Plavsic told Vi magazine.

Her sudden reversal caused much controversy at the time. Plavsic claims her lawyer, Canadian-Serb Krstan Simic, advised her to change her plea in order to secure a milder sentence from the tribunal.

“I wanted my husband to defend me in Hague. He was a criminal defence lawyer but had nearly gone blind from glaucoma, so that was impossible,” says Plavsic. “I didn't know it at the time but he [Krstan Simic] was a business lawyer. Unlike him, my husband would have been able to prove my innocence.”

Her admission of guilt was a key factor in the Hague tribunal's decision to lower her sentence and drop the remaining charges. Had she not pleaded guilty, and taking all eight charges against her into account, Plavsic would likely have been sentenced to 20-25 years in prison rather than the 11 she is now serving.

In the interview with Vi magazine, Plavsic describes life at Sweden's Hinseberg prison as “worse than what the Nazi Albert Speer endured in Spandau prison”.

“None of the other prisoners have read a single book. And yet we are treated equally. Your country has nothing to be proud of,” says Plavsic.

She also talks about her former fellow Bosnian leaders, including Radovan Karadzic who was arrested and brought to trial in July 2008.

“Karadzic is a coward,” says Plavsic. “He and his cronies were criminals, acting like a group of gangsters. It will all become known eventually.”

Plavsic is a professor of biology and enjoyed a distiguished career at the University of Sarajevo. From 1996 to 1998 she served as the president of the Republika Srpska, now one of the two political entities that make up the state Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Story continues below…

During the war, Plavsic defended the mass killings of Bosnian non-Serbs as a “natural phenomenon”. She has been accused of playing a key role in the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995, where at least 8000 Muslims were killed.

In a photograph presented as evidence at the Hague tribunal, she is seen stepping over a dead body to greet notorious Serbian warlord Zeljko 'Arkan' Raznatovic with a kiss.

Daniel Uggelberg Goldberg, Vi magazine

Biljana Plavsic was interviewed by Vi's reporter Margaretha Nordgren

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Sweden can extend border controls, EU says
A police officer carrying out a check at Sweden's border with Denmark. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

EU countries including Sweden should be granted permission to extend temporary border controls by a period of a further three months, the European Commission has decided.

Nobel Prizes
'I'd say he's arrogant but I'd be lying': Swedes on Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan performing in France. Photo: David Vincent/AP

Almost two weeks have passed since Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and he has yet to acknowledge the win. The Local asked Swedes what they think of the singer's silence.

Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast by thousands
A Swedish migration authority office in Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

The country has also slashed its prediction for 2017.

Swedish researchers plan new trucks for women drivers
File photo of trucks in Sweden. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

Could vehicles adapted for women attract more female truckers to the profession?

These stats show Swedish driving isn't so gender equal
File photo of a Swedish woman driving a car. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A new survey shows that few Swedish women get behind the wheel when driving with their male partner.

Revealed: Game of Thrones could be coming to Sweden
Game of Thrones cast members at the Emmy Awards in September. Photo: Jordan Strauss/AP

The producers of the hit show have asked for three rounds of location pictures of Swedish island Gotland.

Prime Minister to meet Swedish troops in Iraq
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and his Kurdish counterpart Nechervan Barzani. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Löfven is set to meet Swedish troops in Iraq on Tuesday.

Swedish politicians wage war on winter time
Soon it will look like this on your way home from work in Sweden. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Should Sweden stick with summer time all year round?

'Don't turn the Pope into a global teddy bear'
Sweden's Queen Silvia and Princess Leonore visiting Pope Francis in the Vatican last year. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

It's time to hold the Pope to account and make sure he turns his words about reform into action, argues a minister of the Swedish Church ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Sweden.

Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available