Croatian president Ivo Josipovic criticised the international and Croatian courts on Wednesday for releasing war criminals from prison after they serve only two thirds of their sentence.
President Josipovic, speaking at a round table discussion concerning the prosecution of war crimes, expressed his dismay: "The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, and the domestic courts, release those convicted before they serve their full sentence. I do not think that is good."
The round table discussion was organised in Zagreb by the Croatian NGOs Documenta, the Citizen Committee for Human Rights, and the Centre for Peace, Non-violence and Human Rights.
"We know all the theories about rehabilitation and the purpose of punishment, but I think that in the case of war crimes, such a form of support for the perpetrators should be very exceptional", said Josipovic, a renowned expert in international humanitarian law, who has worked closely with the ICTY in the past.
The ICTY introduced the practice of releasing those convicted for war crimes after they serve two thirds of their sentence, a practice which was taken up by the courts in Croatia.
Such a practice came under criticism by Croatian human rights NGOs after the former Croatian army general Mirko Norac, who had been sentenced to 15 years for war crimes in Gospic and Medak Pocket by Croatian courts, was released last November after serving two thirds of his sentence.
"I would never pardon certain crimes, like rape, murder and war crime. But what is the use of that if the ICTY releases convicts earlier, and the domestic courts follow suit," Josipovic added.
Josipovic said that NGOs should hold to account both domestic and international courts, "because both are human creations and can therefore make mistakes".
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