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Plavsic Reportedly Withdraws Guilty Plea

Biljana Plavsic tells Swedish media she pleaded guilty so she could “bargain for the other charges”.
By Simon Jennings
The only woman to be convicted by the Hague tribunal has reportedly gone back on the confession she made to the court in 2002, telling a Swedish magazine she has “done nothing wrong”.

Biljana Plavsic, a member of the Bosnian Serb presidency during the Bosnian 1992-95 war and president of Republika Srpska, RS, from 1996 to 98, was sentenced to 11 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to one count of persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, a crime against humanity, committed in 37 Bosnian municipalities.

“The knowledge that I am responsible for such human suffering and for soiling the character of my people will always be with me,” she told judges in 2002.

Plavsic’s expression of remorse was given significant weight as a mitigating factor by judges when sentencing her.

Following her guilty plea, the court also dropped further charges of murder and genocide.

But in an interview from the Swedish prison where she is serving her sentence, Plavsic told Vi magazine that she pleaded guilty so that the other charges would be dropped and she would receive a lighter sentence.

“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 was reported as saying.

The charges against Plavsic included conspiring with fellow Bosnian Serb politicians to implement a campaign of persecution, which included conduct intended to destroy in part the Bosniak and Croat populations in Bosnia.

Plavsic’s recent comments came shortly after the Swedish Ministry of Justice rejected her application for a pardon in December 2008.

According to legal experts, her reported remarks will not help any future bids for early release.

“It’s not very wise,” said Goran Sluiter, a professor of international law at Amsterdam University. “For early release, I can see this would be an issue.”

Plavsic is not scheduled to be released until 2012.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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