Protection of Prisoners’ Rights

3. August 2011.00:00
A newly founded association called, Help in Protecting Prisoners' Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, intends to supervise the respect of human rights in prisons in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Amra Kovac, President of Help in Protecting Prisoners’ Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, told BIRN – Justice Report that many prisoners, who are held in prisons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, “are discriminated on the basis of their religious, national and ethnic affiliation”.

“A report issued by the European Committee for Prevention of Torture, CPT following their visit to prisons in May 2009 says, among other things, that violence against rival groups on the basis of ethnic or regional affiliation, often happens in prisons,” Kovac said.

Nihad Spahic, Manager of the Penal and Correctional Facility in Zenica, says that there is no discrimination based on ethnicity in that prison.
“The CPT’s report issued in May is extremely favourable in terms of the situation of human rights, starting from health services to the serving of sentences. There are cases of abuse among prisoners, but not because of ethnic affiliation of those people. Bosniaks, who were sentenced for war crimes, faced even more problems than Serbs,” Spahic said.

Spahic mentions that most of the Bosniaks, who have been sentenced for war crimes, are serving their sentences in the Zenica Facility.

“Twenty-four convicts are serving their sentences for war crimes in this prison. Half of them, i.e. 12, are Bosniaks and the remaining ones are Serbs or Croats. They treat each other in a correct manner, because war crimes convicts usually behave in a correct manner, irrespective of their ethnicity,” Spahic explained.

The President of the Help in Protecting Prisoners’ Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina association said that, in some cases war crimes indictees or convicts were transferred to other prisons for the sake of their own safety. This happened in the case of Franc Kos, who is on trial before the State Court for genocide in Srebrenica in July 1995.

Dusko Tomic, the Defence attorney for Kos, said that his client had received various threats after having said at the trial that he had participated in certain crimes in the Srebrenica area.

Tomic mentioned that, in the hard and specific cases, like the case of Kos, indictees should not be held in entity prisons, but the Detention Unit of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“My clients faced many problems. Almost each of my Serb clients was beaten up in Zenica. I am not saying that it was done in an organised manner, but there is a group of war crimes convicts in that prison, who judged and beat certain convicts,” Tomic said.

Nevertheless, Spahic, Manager of the Zenica Facility, says that the lives of the prisoners, who are held in that prison, are not endangered.

“Prisoners avoid coming to Zenica, so they invent torture and abuse. When they list their reasons, they usually mention those that might work. Their wishes to be closer to their families or to be sent to a less strict prison are actually the real reasons. Attorneys play a game in order to help their clients be sent to another prison and get some money, and not because they want to protect their rights,” Spahic said.

Kovac told BIRN – Justice Report that different criminal laws are applied at war crimes trials at the entity and state levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that this leads to the unequal rights of indictees.

“In fact, we have a situation where two persons, who were sentenced for war crimes, share the same prison cell, but they are not treated equally. Due to all these reasons, our Association will focus on the improvement and monitoring of prisoners’ human rights in line with the European prison rules,” Kovac said.


This post is also available in: Bosnian