Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Suspects on Hunger Strike

By Merdijana Sadovic (TU No 484, 12-Jan-07)
Around 40 war crimes indictees who are being tried or are awaiting trial at the Bosnian War Crimes Chamber launched a hunger strike this week, demanding to be tried under former Yugoslavia's more lenient criminal code.

They are protesting against being tried under Bosnia's 2003 criminal code that is seen as harsher than the former Yugoslav version it replaced.

Bosnia's 2003 code provides for a maximum prison term of 40 years instead of 15 under the old one, which was in force when the alleged offences took place.

The hunger-strikers, who come from all three Bosnia’s ethnic groups, demand to be tried under the previous criminal code, claiming any crimes they committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war would have taken place under that legal framework.

Those with ongoing court cases demand that they be released on bail, while those already convicted want their sentences annulled before being retried.

Bosnia’s War Crimes Chamber was set up in 2005 in order to try lower- and mid-level cases and ease the burden on the Hague tribunal. It has so far sentenced eight people, while 22 are being tried or are awaiting trial.

On January 12, the number of prisoners on a hunger strike rose to about 70, after dozens of those indicted for common crimes joined the protest launched by war crimes detainees, said national radio BH 1.

Some 30 inmates of a prison in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, who had been sentenced for various criminal acts, are demanding that a law on pardoning

prisoners be applied.

The state court and prison authorities have so far refused to comment or to give any details on the report.

Merdijana Sadovic is the tribunal programme’s project manager.

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