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20 November 2013
News

Bosnian War Criminals’ Release Sparks International Concern

Erna Mackic BIRN BIH Sarajevo
The EU and international organisations in Bosnia expressed concerns after ten war crimes and genocide convicts were set free because they were tried under the wrong criminal code.
The EU, the OSCE and the Office of the High Representative, the top international official in Bosnia, all said on Wednesday that the state court’s decision this week to free the war criminals was a worrying development that must be addressed urgently.

“We call on all competent institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina to coordinate their activities as soon as possible in relation to this issue,” the Office of the High Representative said in a statement.

“We are deeply worried about this new situation which has led to retrials being ordered in cases in which persons were sentenced for the most heinous crimes, including genocide,” the OSCE mission to Bosnia said in its own statement.

The state court on Tuesday quashed verdicts that sentenced the ten men to jail terms ranging from 14 to 33 years in prison, on the grounds that the stricter Bosnian criminal code from 2003 was wrongly used instead of the former Yugoslavia’s more lenient criminal code from 1976.

The court made its controversial decision after the European Court for Human Rights ruled earlier this year that the 2003 Bosnian criminal code had been wrongly used to try crimes which happened before it was introduced.

The ten released convicts, as well as two others freed on parole earlier, will now have to be retried.

The EU delegation to Bosnia said it was worrying that potentially dangerous criminals had been set free.

“The basis for possible remand in custody or restrictive measures must be analysed in detail, having in mind the potential danger to the democratic and legal order, as well as protection of witnesses,” said Andy McGuffie, spokesman for the EU delegation and the EU special representative in Bosnia.

The Bosnian prosecution has so far not said whether it will ask for the convicts to be remanded in custody before their retrials.

“It is necessary to find the right balance between the necessary protection of the rights of convicts and the rights of victims, while at the same time fighting against impunity for the perpetrators of some of the worst criminal acts,” the Office of the High Representative said.

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