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ICTY approves release of former Bosnian Serb president

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] announced Tuesday that it has approved [decision, PDF] the release of former Bosnian president Biljana Plavsic [ICTY materials; BBC profile]. Her sentence was commuted after she served only two-thirds of her 11-year sentence for persecution. In giving the reasons for the commutation, the judge wrote:

I note first that she appears to have demonstrated substantial evidence of rehabilitation. Although previously taken into consideration at the time of her sentencing, Mrs. Plavsic's guilty plea indicates that she accepted responsibility for her crimes from an early stage of the proceedings. At the sentencing hearing, Mrs. Plavsic expressed her remorse and accepted that "[t]he knowledge that I am responsible for such human suffering and for soiling the character of my people will always be with me. In her statement in support of her motion for a change of plea it was also stated: "By accepting responsibility and expressing her remorse fully and unconditionally, Mrs. Plavsic hopes to offer some consolation to the innocent victims [ ... ] of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Plavsic, an ethnic Serb, will be eligible for conditional release from the Swedish prison where she is being held on October 27, but no specific release date has been set.

Plavsic pleaded guilty in 2001 to eight charges of war crimes for her part in planning the ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. Plavsic was initially indicted together with Momcilo Krajisnik [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive], the former Bosnian Serb parliamentary leader who was sentenced [JURIST report] to 20 years in prison for his crimes against humanity. Earlier this week, the war crimes trial began [JURIST report] for former high ranking Bosnian Serb officials Mico Stanisic and Stojan Zupljanin [ICTY materials]. The two are accused of taking part in a criminal enterprise that also included Plavsic, Krajisnik, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic [JURIST news archives]. In 2006, the Bosnian Ambassador petitioned [JURIST report] for Plavsic's release in a letter to Sweden's former Foreign Minister saying Plavsic was in poor health and also criticizing the conditions of the prison.

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