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Research Handbook on the International Penal System

Research Handbook on the International Penal System

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Róisín Mulgrew and Denis Abels

Drawing on the expertise and experience of contributors from a wide range of academic, professional and judicial backgrounds, this handbook critically analyses the laws, policies and practices that govern detention, punishment and the enforcement of sentences in the international criminal justice context. Comprehensive and innovative, it also explores broader normative questions related to international punishment and makes recommendations for the international penal system’s development.

Chapter 12: Rehabilitating international prisoners

Barbora Holá and Joris van Wijk

Subjects: law - academic, criminal law and justice, human rights, public international law


In December 2010 Veselin _ljivan_anin, a former Montenegrin Major in the Yugoslav People’s Army, was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment by the ICTY. He was convicted of torture as a war crime for his involvement in the mistreatment of hundreds of prisoners of war at the Ovcara farm near Vukovar, Croatia. Six months later, he was granted early release. When in detention, the ICTY President reasoned, _ljivan_anin behaved well, regularly assisted in library work, maintained good relations with his family and expressed ‘sympathy for the victims of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia’. Although he did ‘not express remorse for his own crimes’, the President considered his level of rehabilitation sufficient to pardon the rest of his prison term. After returning to Belgrade, Serbia, _ljivan_anin received a heroic welcome, wrote a book on his unfair treatment by the ICTY and regularly frequented television shows, claiming that he does not regret his acts in Vukovar. Whereas international criminal tribunals aim to rehabilitate perpetrators of international crimes and cite rehabilitation in their case-law as one of the sentencing goals and a criterion for early release, in reality this ulterior aspiration seems to be devoid of any meaningful conceptualization, clear objectives and consistent implementation. As of 1 May 2015 the vast majority of international prisoners convicted and already released at the ICTY, ICTR and the SCSL were at the time of being released considered sufficiently rehabilitated.

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