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No Deradicalisation Schemes for Bosnian Terror Convicts

28. March 2017.12:09
Because of a lack of resources, Bosnians convicted of fighting for radical Islamist groups abroad are not helped to ‘deradicalise’ in jail or to reintegrate into society after their release.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Prison inmates in Bosnia and Herzegovina who were convicted of fighting in terrorist organisations do not undergo a deradicalisation programme in prisons – and some experts warn that they can even manage to radicalise others while behind bars.

The lack of financial resources is the reason why 12 people who have been convicted of abetting or fighting for foreign terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq, and who are currently serving their sentences in Bosnia and Herzegovina, are not required to subject themselves to deradicalisation programmes.

Experts also argue that the number of psychologists and sociologists working in prisons is insufficient for attempts to prevent further radicalisation.

Psychologist Renata Krstanovic also said that prisoners are usually hopeless and therefore susceptible to radical ideas, and that psychologists are expected to act as “firefighters” in jails.

“The entire system, including the state institutions, ministries and religious institutions, should be organised in order to fight radical ideas,” Krstanovic said.

The security and justice ministries say they are aware of the absence of deradicalization programmes, as well as the fact that people convicted of fighting abroad are extremely committed and dangerous people, and can radicalise other prisoners.

“We take the returnees from foreign battlefields very seriously, because these are radicalised people who acquire additional skills during their stay with terrorist organisations. They then use those skills in various ways on those battlefields, but also in Europe,” said security minister Dragan Mektic.

Terrorism expert Vlado Azinovic warned that people convicted of fighting in Syria and Iraq could radicalise other convicts in the prison system because their status means they can easily become leaders.

“Convicted terrorists represent a different type of felon from murderers, thieves and other criminals,” Azinovic said.

Mektic claimed that there are examples of one convict radicalising one, five or ten others in prisons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but said that he does not want to specify where exactly this happened.

One of those currently in jail, Fikret Hadzic, was convicted of fighting for Islamic State in Syria, although he denies being a member of the Islamist group and insists he only visited the country on two occasions in 2013 and 2015 in order to help people there.

In an interview with BIRN, Hadzic did not want to discuss deradicalisation programmes because he insisted that he is not a radical, but he confirmed that has still not met a psychologist after several months in prison.

Mustafa Bisic, an assistant minister of justice responsible for the functioning of penal facilities, said that due to lack of financial resources, prisons lacked medical doctors, medical staff and equipment, as well as other staff who should be involved in treatment of prisoners, like psychologists, sociologists and other experts.

“The treatment services are functioning under aggravated conditions,” Bisic said.

Between 2012 and 2016, around 180 men, as well as around 100 women and minors, went from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Syria and Iraq. Around 70 of them were killed in Syria, while 46 have returned to their home country.

Twelve of them who were convicted of fighting abroad are currently serving their sentences in prisons in Zenica, Sarajevo, Bihac and Tuzla, while two more have already been released.

The longest sentence handed down by the state court so far was in the case of Husein Bilal Bosnic, who got seven years for helping others to go to foreign battlefields.

Hadzic, who is serving a one-year sentence in the Penal and Correctional Facility on Mount Igman, is one of the returnees. He admitted his guilt, just like seven other returnees from Syria, but insisted that he is “a firm opponent of Islamic State”.

“I am disappointed with the proceedings, because the court and prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina consider that all fighters who went from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Syria took part in so-called Islamic State, which has nothing to do with Islam itself,” Hadzic said.

Like others however, he may still face the problem of lacking any help to reintegrate into society when he is released.

The Law on Execution of Criminal and Legal Sanctions envisages a support system for convicts while they are in jail and after their release, but assistant minister Bisic said that the legislation is not being implemented – again due to the lack of resources.

The law says that each individual should get a personalised treatment plan, which includes preparing a resocialisation and rehabilitation programme.

“The law foresees that the treatment service is obliged to prepare a personality profile, listing all potential problems that might appear once the person has been released, and inform social work centres accordingly before the person has been released from prison,” Bisic explained.

Krstanovic explained that convicts are also stigmatised as terrorists and so society rejects them even though it should actually try to reintegrate them.

Hadzic said meanwhile that he has no plans yet for what he will do once he is released, at least in terms of finding work.

“There is one thing that I will surely do once I get out of prison – I intend to propagate the faith. My obligation, as a man and a Muslim, is to spread the truth and enable people to know the truth,” he said.

Denis Džidić

This post is also available in: Bosnian