Foreign Minister urges Bosnia not to free more war criminals
Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans has reacted with shock to the news that Bosnia released ten war criminals. “I urge Bosnia to take measures that prevent that any more war criminals are released. Their release is difficult to understand and very upsetting for the families of the victims. I share their pain,” Timmermans wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday night.
The Bosnian state court on Tuesday quashed verdicts that sentenced the ten men to jail terms ranging from 14 to 33 years in prison, on the grounds that the stricter Bosnian criminal code from 2003 was wrongly used instead of the former Yugoslavia’s more lenient criminal code from 1976. In a statement, the war crimes court said the 10 freed prisoners would no longer be classified as convicts but rather as war crimes indictees as they undergo retrials. The ten released convicts, as well as two others freed on parole earlier, will now have to be retried.
Timmermans said he regretted that Bosnian authorities did not take the time to consider other avenues before releasing the men. The crimes the ten are convicted to have been involved in -the 1995 mass killings of thousands of Muslim men and boys by separatist Bosnian Serb forces- are regarded as the worst atrocity committed on European soil since World War Two.
The release, which cast doubt over a series of war crimes convictions in Bosnia, angered survivors of the massacre. In the wake of Europeanwide condemnation of the move, a Bosnia prosecutor has meanwhile requested that the men be rearrested, fearing they might flee before their appeals cases are reheard.