Authorities against release of war criminals serving sentences in Estonia

Tartu prison.
Tartu prison. Source: Facebook/Prison communications department

The Tartu County Court on Tuesday discussed the release from prison of Dragomir Milošević and Milan Martić, war criminals serving jail sentences in Tartu Prison, under electronic surveillance, but both the prosecutor's office and the prison opposed their release.

The issue of the early conditional release of both men was discussed in the county court, but in separate hearings. The court examined the views of the prison and the prosecutor's office and heard the convicts.

In both cases, Tartu Prison did not support the early conditional release of the prisoner under electronic surveillance. The prison would only support this if the convicted person is deported or handed over to a foreign country. The prosecutor's office also did not support the early release of the men.

The court will decide on the possible release of the men no later than March 8.

In reaching its decision, the court must also take into account the position of the president of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals on early release. Article 8 (2) of the Enforcement Agreement provides that the president is to state whether an early release, pardon or commutation of sentence is appropriate and the state that received the application shall take note of the position received and reply to the president before taking any decision. Pursuant to paragraph 3 of the same article, the president of the international tribunal may, after receiving a reply, request the transfer of the sentenced person to another state or to the international tribunal.

78-year-old Milošević, convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as a war criminal, is a former Bosnian Serb commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps (SRK) of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) which besieged Sarajevo for three years during the Bosnian War. 

The tribunal found the former general guilty of a violation of the laws and customs of war and crimes against humanity. He was convicted on multiple counts of terror, murder and inhumane acts committed during the campaign of sniping and shelling which resulted in the death and injury of a great number of civilians in Sarajevo.

On December 12, 2007 the tribunal sentenced him to 33 years of imprisonment. Milosevic appealed the sentence and the tribunal's appeals chamber ruled to reduce the sentence to 29 years.

Milošević has been serving his sentence in Tartu Prison since March 22, 2011.

66-year-old Martić was the last president of the unrecognized republic of Serbian Krajina between 1994 and 1995 during the Croatian War of Independence and a war criminal convicted by the ICTY.

Martić was convicted of war crimes by the ICTY in 2007 and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Martić has been serving his sentence in Tartu Prison since June 2009.

Estonia and the tribunal have entered into an agreement on the enforcement of court decisions, according to which Estonia will, if necessary, accept convicted persons to serve their sentence in Estonia at the request of the tribunal.

In addition to the aforementioned, serving his sentence in Tartu Prison is also 53-year-old Milan Lukić, a Bosnian Serb war criminal who led the White Eagles paramilitary group during the Bosnian War. He was found guilty by the ICTY in July 2009 of crimes against humanity and violations of war customs committed in the Visegrad region of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War.

He was charged with killing Bosnian Muslims in the Visegrad region and sentenced to life in prison.

Since February 2014, Lukić has been serving his sentence in Tartu Prison in accordance with the agreement between the Estonian government and the United Nations on the enforcement of judgments of the ICTY.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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