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Pocar: Bosnia Prison Appeal

Tribunal president concerned that country’s main court does not have an adequate prison facility.
By Merdijana Sadović
Hague tribunal president Fausto Pocar urged the international community to support Bosnia’s prison system.

The tribunal president made the remarks after visiting the prison in the eastern town of Foca from which Bosnian Serb war crimes convict Radovan Stankovic escaped a year ago. He was extremely concerned that Stankovic was still at large, he said.

In 2006, Stankovic was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina for rape and other crimes against humanity committed in 1992, after the Hague tribunal referred his case to Bosnia. His sentence was later commuted to 20 years on appeal.

The initial investigation into his escape suggested he had help from guards at the prison, who were also his wartime friends.

The tribunal president discussed the case with the minister for justice of Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska, Dzerard Selman, saying that “Stankovic’s escape and the fact that he disappeared without a trace [was] a huge stain on RS institutions”.

Pocar also held a meeting with Bosnian state court president Judge Medzida Kreso, during which he expressed satisfaction with the work of the court’s war crimes chamber, saying it was “one the tribunal’s key partners in the region”.

He added he was “very pleased with the way the chamber handles its cases, because it works in accordance with the international standards and the rule of law”.

However, Pocar added that it was a cause for concern that the Bosnian state court still had no adequate facility where all those convicted could serve their sentence. For the time being, convicts are sent to prisons closest to their homes.

Pocar suggested that Stankovic would not have been able to break free had there been adequate prison facilities.

He added that “prisons in this country need support from the international community”.

During his three-day visit, which was held to discuss tribunal cooperation and matters related to its legacy, Pocar also called for the four remaining fugitives – Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, Stojan Zupljanin and Goran Hadzic – to be arrested and for all states to cooperate fully with the tribunal.

In separate development, he gave an interview to Bosnian state television in which he was asked to comment on a conference held by IWPR in The Hague on May 15 to discuss the tribunal’s transparency, particularly in relation to protective measures given to Serbian Supreme Defence Council, SDC, transcripts.

While Pocar refused to comment on the SDC documents, he said protective measures granted to them are still “an open issue”.

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR’s Hague programme manager.

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