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

War Crimes Convict Seeks Pardon

By Caroline Tosh in The Hague (TU No 485, 19-Jan-07)
The former Bosnian Serb president - currently serving an 11-year sentence in Sweden after being convicted for crimes against humanity - has sought a pardon from authorities there.

The Swedish justice ministry confirmed on January 17 that Biljana Plavsic – sentenced in February 2003 after pleading guilty to persecution of non-Serbs during the Bosnian war – has applied for a pardon.

The justice ministry is preparing the case, and the procedure is expected to last a couple of months, said a spokesman quoted in agency reports.

Swedish authorities will abide by the Hague tribunal’s wishes in their decision, he added.

The tribunal’s rules state that a country where a convict is imprisoned must ask the court if a sentence can be commuted or a pardon granted, should the legal requirements of that country have first been met.

In her letter requesting a pardon, Plavsic, 76, cited her age, ailing health and poor prison conditions as factors which, she said, have made her sentence seem longer than 11 years.

Her request was made back in November, but the translation of her letter only arrived at the ministry this week.

In September 2006, the Bosnian ambassador to the United Nations, Milos Prica, also petitioned for her release.

Plavsic was first sent to Hinseberg women’s prison in Sweden in June 2003, when the Swedish authorities granted a tribunal request to accommodate her.

In the past, she has reportedly described the conditions there as being worse than those in The Hague detention unit. Now, four years into her sentence, she’s asking for release.

When sentencing Plavsic, who surrendered to the tribunal in January 2001, the trial chamber took into account her age and “the significant mitigating factors connected with her plea of guilty and post-conflict conduct”.

But the presiding judge said that “no sentence can fully reflect the horror of what occurred or the terrible impact on thousands of victims”.

Caroline Tosh is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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