War criminal praises ministate she helped create

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2009 9:57 AM

Bosnian Serb war criminal Biljana Plavsic said Thursday the success of Bosnia's Serb Republic helped her survive her years in jail, but she does not plan to return to politics.

Plavsic, the former Bosnian Serb president, was freed on Oct. 27 from a Swedish prison after serving two-thirds of an 11-year jail term for crimes against humanity during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

More than 100,000 people were killed during the conflict, most of them by Bosnian Serb forces.

Speaking to the media for the first time since her early release, 79-year-old Plavsic said she is amazed to see how beautiful the Serb Republic has become.

"After nine years of slavery, I'm seeing what smart and constructive people can do to Banja Luka. I heard that throughout the Republika Srpska construction is ongoing," she said, using the official name of Bosnia's Serb Republic. "I felt all that and it helped me survive," Plavsic told reporters after leaving a church in Banja Luka, the country's second-largest city.

The area remains poor, but lavish public spending has created a new government complex and other buildings there.

She praised the government of Milorad Dodik, the ministate's current prime minister, whom she met with in his new government building upon arriving in the Serb Republic on Wednesday.

Plavsic was one of the creators of the Serb ministate in Bosnia during the war. She was an ally of wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, whom she succeeded as president after he was forced to resign because of his genocide indictment in 1997. Later, she helped the Dodik take over the government, but then she ended up at court for various war crimes including genocide.

Plavsic is the only woman among the 161 people indicted by the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia. She had pleaded guilty to a single count of persecution _ a crime against humanity _ as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign to drive Muslims and Croats out of Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia. Her guilty plea was part of a plea bargain to have other charges, including genocide, dropped.

Plavsic was then transferred to Sweden to serve her sentence.

Dodik lobbied for her earlier release and when that happened he sent his plane to pick her up in Sweden and bring her to Belgrade, where she will be living.

Plavsic told reporters on Thursday she won't re-enter politics.

"Finally I have become someone who can live his own life, one I dreamed of having once I end my political career," she said.