Organizations Criticize Attempt to Allow Pardon for War Crimes

A coalition of civil society organizations criticized the justice ministry’s attempt to push through legislation that allows pardon for convicted war criminals. The initiative for monitoring the European integration of BiH said it would be unacceptable if the persons jailed for grave violations of international law would be pardoned.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina not only isn’t expected to weaken the policy of punishing war crimes, but there was explicit criticism of such past attempts (by international organizations), and recommendations that Bosnia and Herzegovina withdraws such proposals,” said the initiative.

“The top legal acts of (Bosnia’s) legal system do not allow such practice. For example, the Constitution of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (entity) excludes the possibility of pardon by the President of the FBiH for the most serious crimes – war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

The Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina discussed this month the draft amendments to the state-level pardon law, drafted by the justice ministry. If amended, the law would allow pardon for persons convicted of genocide and war crimes after three-fifths of the sentence served. The current law does not allow pardon for the most serious crimes against humanity.

The amendments were put on hold until the government consults with the BiH Presidency, which has the authority to grant pardon. However, organizations of war victims and an organization that works on transition justice issues – TRIAL International in BiH – said this was the second attempt to amend the law. The first attempt failed in 2013.

The justice ministry said the law needs to be amended to meet the international obligations: “The BiH Ministry of Justice has proposed changes to the BiH Law on Pardon only to (regulate) the area and harmonize it with international law, but also because of the obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina stemming from the Geneva Convention on Human Rights.”

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