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Biljana Plavšić

Biljana Plavšić (Serbian Cyrillic: Биљана Плавшић) (b. 7 July 1930, Tuzla, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, now Bosnia and Herzegovina) is a former Bosnian Serb politician and university professor currently serving a sentence in Sweden as a result of a conviction by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for war crimes. She was the president of Republika Srpska for two years from 1996 through 1998.

She was indicted by the ICTY for war crimes committed during the war in Bosnia in 2001. She plea bargained with the ICTY. Before her political engagements, she taught biology.

Besides being the highest-ranking Bosnian Serb politician to be sentenced, she was also known for her fiery nationalist statements during the War in Bosnia, against the SDS, and, later, her remorse for the crimes against humanity she admitted to have been responsible for as a high-level politician.

Political career

Plavšić was a member of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS). She was the first female member of the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, serving from 18 November 1990 until April 1992 after having been elected in the first multy-party elections in 1990 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

From 28 February 1992 to 12 May 1992, Plavšić became one of the two acting president of the self proclaimed "Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina". Thereafter she became one of two Vice-presidents of the Republika Srpska and from circa 30 November 1992 she was a member of the Supreme Command of the armed forces of the Republika Srpska.

She was infamous for some of her comments during the war, and for her April 1992 appearance in Bijeljina with Željko Ražnatović, aka Arkan. Serbian President Slobodan Milošević's support for the "Vance Owen Plan" caused her to refuse to shake his hand, as she denounced him as a traitor to the Serbian nation. Vojislav Šešelj testified that "her positions were extreme, very extreme. She was popularly known as the Serbian Empress because of this extremism of hers."

The Dayton Agreement, signed in 1995, banned the then President of Republika Srpska Radovan Karadžić from office and Plavšić was chosen to run as the SDS candidate for President of the Republika Srpska for a two-year mandate.

Vojislav Šešelj, at the Milošević trial, described Karadžić's motives for nominating her.

She held very extremist positions during the war, insufferably extremist, even for me, and they bothered even me as a declared Serb nationalist. She brought Arkan and his Serb Volunteer Guard to Bijeljina, and she continued to visit him after their activities in Bijeljina and the surrounding area... Radovan Karadzic...believed her to be more extreme than himself in every way. He thought that the Western protagonists who tried eliminate him at any cost would have an even greater problem with her... Radovan Karadzic believed that she would continue to occupy her patriotic positions until the end. However, several months after she was elected, Biljana Plavsic changed her political orientation by 180 degrees under the influence of some Western protagonists and changed her policies completely.

Due to a growing isolation of the Republika Srpska after the peace was signed, she severed her ties with the SDS and formed Srpski narodni savez (Serbian Popular Alliance), and nominated Milorad Dodik, the then member of the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska whose SNSD party had only two MPs, for Prime Minister.

This marked the beginning of political reform in the Republika Srpska and the cooperation with the International Community. She lost the 1998 election to the joint candidate of the SDS and the Serb Radical Party of the Republika Srpska Nikola Poplašen. She was a candidate of the reform "Sloga" coalition. Her political career was in decline until the release of the indictment by the ICTY, after which it was completely terminated. During her time in prison, she released a book called "Witnessings" (Svjedočenja), revealing many aspects of the political life of the war-time Republika Srpska and casting an especially dark shadow on the then President of the Republika Srpska Karadžić, another ICTY indictee.

ICTY indictment and sentence

She was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia together with Momčilo Krajišnik and Radovan Karadžić for the "creation of impossible conditions of life, persecution and terror tactics in order to encourage non-Serbs to leave the area, deportation of those reluctant to leave, and the liquidation of others".

The Indictment charged Biljana Plavšić as follows:

  • Two counts of genocide (Article 4 of the Statute of the Tribunal - genocide; and/or, complicity to commit genocide)
  • Five counts of crimes against humanity (Article 5 thereof - extermination; murder; persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds; deportation; alternatively, inhumane acts)
  • One count of violations of the laws or customs of war (Article 3 thereof - murder)

She voluntarily surrendered to the ICTY on January 10, 2001, and was provisionally released on September 6.

On 16 December, 2002 she plea bargained with the ICTY to enter a guilty plea to one count of crimes against humanity for her part in directing the war and targeting civilians and expressed "full remorse" in exchange for prosecutors dropping seven other war crimes charges, including two counts of genocide. Plavšić's statement, read in her native Serbian language, repeated her admission of guilt. It said she had refused to believe stories of atrocities against Bosniaks and Croats and accepted without question the claims that Serbs were fighting for survival.

She was sentenced to 11 years in prison. She is currently serving her sentence at the women's prison Hinseberg in Frövi, Örebro County, Sweden (since 26 June 2003).

References

General references

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