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13 February 2014
News

Most Hague Tribunal Convicts Already Free

Marija Tausan BIRN BiH Sarajevo
Of the 74 people convicted by the Hague Tribunal of wartime crimes in the former Yugoslavia, 49 of them are already out of jail, most of them after being granted early release.
The Hague Tribunal has so far convicted 59 people of wartime crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 41 of whom have already been released from prison, while 15 people have been convicted of committing crimes in Croatia, Kosovo and Macedonia, eight of whom have been freed.

Tribunal spokesperson Magdalena Spalinska said that the president of the court decides on early release, after consulting with the judges. A convict is entitled to early release according to the laws of the state in which he or she is serving their sentence, but the Tribunal will only approve it after two-thirds of the prison term is served.

“When deciding whether it is suitable to release the convicts, the president takes the gravity of the criminal acts into account, the treatment of prisoners in a similar situation, the extent of the rehabilitation the prisoner demonstrated and cooperation of the prisoner with the prosecutor,” Spalinska explained.

She noted that a number of prisoners were released after the verdict because of the length of time they spent in detention during their trials. Among these were Bosnian Army commanders Enver Hadzihasanovic and Amir Kukubra, who were jailed for three-and-a-half and two years, but whose trials in The Hague lasted for five years.

Spalinska added that two convicts died in jail and so did not serve their full terms, among them Miroslav Deronjic, a Bosnian Serb politician who died while serving his ten-year sentence in Sweden.

In Bosnia meanwhile early release is possible after half of the sentence is served, for those given jail terms of up to 21 years in prison, and after three-fifths of the sentence for those with longer penalties.

Mustafa Bisic, Bosnian Justice Ministry assistant for criminal sanctions, said that the commission that decides on early release takes into account previous convictions, the prisoner’s behaviour in prison, participation in treatment programmes, attitude towards the victim and the risk of reoffending, among other criteria.

From 2005 to 2013, the ministry received 774 appeals for early release, and 227, or 36 per cent, were approved.

Bisic said that parole was aimed at reintegrating convicts into Bosnian society.

“Every legal system seeks to punish any offender, but every society wants to re-educate those people, using modern penalty measures and methods, in order to make those people useful members of society,” he explained.

Bisic also pointed out that new amendments to the law, applied from the beginning of this month, impose certain restrictions when approving parole for prisoners convicted of war crimes, terrorism and drug trafficking so they can be kept under control if necessary.

“The commission has the option to set the measures when granting parole, such as reporting to the police authorities, residence at a certain address, a ban on meeting certain people, a ban on going to certain places, a ban on travel. Measures of supervision or monitoring could also be determined,” said Bisic.

Like Bosnia and Herzegovina, other former Yugoslav countries such as Croatia and Serbia also allow the early release of war crimes convicts.
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