News 25 May 07

Bosnia: War Crimes Convict Escapes from Foca Prison

Sarajevo_Radovan Stankovic, a Bosnian Serb sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for rapes and murder committed in Foca, eastern Bosnia, escaped from prison in the same town on Friday, BIRN`s Justice Report has learned.

The escape of Radovan Stankovic, who was serving a 20 year sentence, was reported to the police in the early morning hours, sources in the Republika Srpska police in Foca and East Sarajevo confirmed to Justice Report.

The police said search was underway. The Ministry of Justice of BiH has also been informed of the escape and its officials were on their way to Foca.

Radovan Stankovic was the first indictee whose trial was entrusted to the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague.

Stankovic was arrested by SFOR, former international force in Bosnia, in 2002 having spent several years on the run.

In March 2007, the Court sentenced Stankovic, a former member of the Miljevina Battalion of Foca Tacitical Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army, for crimes committed against civilians on the territory of Foca municipality in 1992.

Stankovic was one of organsers and supervisors of the so-called Karaman House in Foca, which was used as a rape camp for Bosniak women.

He was sent to the correctional facility in Foca to serve the sentence.

Danka Tesic, Eastern Sarajevo police spokesperson, confirmed that the police have been intensively searching for the runaway since this morning.

"The police were informed of his escape by staff of the Correctional Facility Foca this morning. I cannot tell you when this happened, but I can confirm that the police are doing whatever is necessary," Tesic told Justice Report.

The police in neighbouring Serbia have been notified of the escape too, officials of the State Information and Protections Agency told Justice Report.

Officials of the Foca prison refused to comment on the issue.

Dragica Glusac, Stankovic's defence attorney, did not have any information about the escape.

"During the trial, he refused to communicate with me. Therefore, after the verdict my job was done," Glusac told Justice Report.

Bosnia's prisons have often been criticised by the international community but also local officials for bad security measures.

Officials of the State Court and Prosecution in the past two years made numerous appeals for a new state-level prison to be built - but to no avail.

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