Court urges early release for Bosnian war criminal

Court urges early release for Bosnian war criminal
Biljana Plavsic, the former Bosnian Serb leader who is serving an 11-year jail sentence in Sweden for crimes against humanity, should be released early for good behaviour, according to court documents.

“Mrs. Plavsic should be granted early release,” from the Swedish prison where she is serving her sentence, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia said in a decision dated Monday, citing her good behaviour and apparent rehabilitation.

Under Swedish law, 79-year-old Plavsic becomes eligible for release from October 27, after serving two-thirds of her term. The tribunal has the final say in the matter.

Plavsic was sentenced in February 2003 after she admitted playing a leading role in a campaign of persecution against Croats and Muslims during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

She is the highest ranking official of the former Yugoslavia to have acknowledged responsibility for atrocities committed in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

A member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency called last year for Plavsic not to be pardoned given the gravity of her crimes.

“Any act of mercy would be a big mistake and an insult to the victims and families of the victims,” Zeljko Komsic, a Bosnian Croat, said in a letter to the Swedish government in September last year.

Tribunal president Patrick Robinson said Plavsic “appears to have demonstrated substantial evidence of rehabilitation”, and had accepted responsibility for her crimes.

One of the judges consulted for the early release ruling had expressed concern that there was not “sufficient evidence of rehabilitation”. But Robinson said Plavsic had expressed remorse and a behavioural report showed she had “exhibited good behaviour” in prison.

“She has participated in the institution’s walks and she also occupies herself by cooking and baking,” he said.

“Notwithstanding the gravity of her crimes”, it had to be taken into account that others convicted of similar crimes were released after serving two-thirds of their sentences, said Robinson.

“This factor supports her eligibility for early release.”

Plavsic surrendered to the tribunal in January 2001 after it had issued an indictment for her in April 2000 for genocide, extermination, murder, persecution, deportation and inhumane acts.

She struck a plea agreement with prosecutors in October 2002 and was transferred to Sweden in June 2003 to serve out her sentence.

“Mrs Plavsic admitted to supporting and contributing to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of ethnic populations by force,” recalled the court decision.

This had included “the knowledge that forcible permanent removal of non-Serbs from Serbian-claimed territories would include a discriminatory campaign of persecution.”

Robinson ordered the tribunal’s registry to inform the Swedish authorities of his decision.

The Swedish government is to decide this autumn as to if and when Plavsic will be released, although the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has the final say in the matter.

“We’ve asked for a brief about Plavsic from the tribunal and now we’ve received one. They have given their approval for her release. The court sees no reason for us to apply Swedish rules on conditional release,” said Swedish justice ministry spokesperson Martin Valfridsson to the TT news agency.

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