Friday, December 5, 2008

Norwegian Court Decides Landmark War Crimes Case

This week a court in Oslo sentenced a 42 year-old Bosnian man to five years in prison for his role in war crimes committed in 1992 during the Yugoslav Wars. The case was the first ever prosecuted under new laws allowing Norwegian courts to try cases for crimes against humanity committed outside of Norway.

According to Reuters the convicted man, Misrad Repak, came to Norway in 1993 seeking asylum, and became a Norwegian citizen in 2001. Aftenposten reported that the case began with a tip from Danish police, who were conducting their own investigation into war crimes committed during the conflict. The prosecution’s case alleged that Repak was a mid-level leader in HOS, a Croatian militia, and that he participated in an internment camp were Serbs from the towns Stolac and Capljina were rounded up in 1992. The conviction was for crimes committed in the camp, including torture. Repak was found not guilty on some counts, and the five year sentence is only half of what prosecutors asked for.

Human rights advocates have long been concerned that the generous asylum policies of Norway and the other Nordic countries may have unintentionally made them into safe havens for war criminals. According to Aftenposten there are about 100 persons in Norway suspected of war crimes, including 15 individuals that the Rwandan government has requested be extradited for prosecution for their role in the genocide there in 1994. The new laws, which were passed in 2005 but only came into effect just this year, are intended to show that war criminals will not be tolerated in Norway. Still, the case was extremely complex and the constitutionality of the new laws is yet to be tested. Judge Finn Haugen told the Norwegian press that he believes that the case will and should go to the Norwegian Supreme Court so that the legal principles underlying it can be fully evaluated.

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