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news 10 Sep 14

Bosnia Vows New Sanctions Against Fighters Abroad

Following the recent arrest of a number of Bosnians suspected of recruiting fighters in the Middle East, judicial and police officials have pledged to introduce new penalties against people who take part in foreign armed conflicts.

Elvira M. Jukic
  September 3 arrests or suspected terrorists by SIPA/ Photo AP

After last week's arrests of 16 persons suspected of organizing and financing the departure of would-be fighters in Syria and Iraq, the authorities on Tuesday said a new range of criminal sanctions would soon come into force.

Goran Salihovic, from the State Prosecutor's Office, said Bosnia would be among the first countries of the region to start using new rules on the issue, referring to changes to the law adopted a few months ago.

“New solutions to the criminal law are being discussed alongside the activities we are already conducting,” he said, referring to the recent arrests.

The problem of nationals going to fight in the wars in the Middle East was not limited to Bosnia, he noted.

“This is not only happening in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we see it happening in Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Sandzak and Montenegro as well, where certain persons are joining paramilitary formations on the frontlines of Iraq, Syria and Ukraine,” he said.

“The recent action of the judicial and police agencies was just a beginning,” Salihovic told the media at the start of a workshop on the topic held on Tuesday in Sarajevo, organized by the Bosnian Agency for Coordination of Police Bodies and the Prosecutor.

This police agency director, Mirsad Velic, said the image of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country that exported young people to go into battle in different warzones as volunteers or as mercenaries needed to be dispelled.

The State Investigative and Protection Agency, SIPA, which conducted the last week's police action, codenamed Damask, revealed on Monday that it had found quantities of ammunition on some of the arrested 16 persons.

SIPA said that, following consultation with the responsible prosecutor, they had handed over nine persons to the Prosecutor's Office.

According to SIPA,  the nine are suspected of “committing the criminal acts... of financing terroristic activities, publicly encouraging terroristic activities, recruiting for terroristic activities, and organizing a terroristic group.

“In the course of the 'Damask' action, they [police] found and temporarily seized the following items: hand grenades, machine guns, sub-machine guns, air rifles and other types of rifles, pistols, ammunition frames, ammunition of various calibers, camouflage, bulletproof and attack vests,” it added.

Computers were also seized as well as data storage devices, mobile phones, SIM cards, promotional material, such as CDs, DVDs, brochures, books or flags and various notes, records and more.

It is estimated that around 160 men and 20 women have gone from Bosnia to Syria in the past three years since the conflict started there. Around 20 have reportedly died so far.

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