Albright to Testify at Plavsic Sentencing
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Nobel Prize winning author Elie Wiesel will testify at the sentencing hearings of the highest-ranked politician from the former Yugoslavia to plead guilty to war crimes, prosecutors said Monday.
The surprise witnesses will appear during a three-day hearing at the U.N. war crimes tribunal that will determine the sentence for former Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavsic, 72, who once was known as Bosnia’s ``iron lady.″
They were among a list of witnesses announced by prosecutor Mark Harmon at the beginning of the hearing.
Plavsic, a wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs, was indicted for her role in planning the purge of Muslims and other non-Serbs from Serb-dominated areas of Bosnia early in the 1992-1995 war.
She later became president of the Serb enclave in Bosnia, and remains the only woman among more than 100 men indicted by the tribunal.
During opening remarks, Plavsic sat attentively and took notes while defense lawyer Eugene O’Sullivan called the proceedings ``the most important sentencing hearings that has been or ever will be conducted at this tribunal.″
In October, Plavsic changed her plea from innocent on eight counts including genocide to guilty of one count of persecution, a crime against humanity that carries a sentence of up to life in prison. The prosecution dropped the rest of the charges.
In an interview published Sunday, Plavsic denied speculation she had agreed to testify against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and said she had not tried to bargain for a reduced sentence. Milosevic is being tried separately on war crimes charges in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
``What’s a 10-year sentence to me? It is the same as a life in prison,″ she told a reporter for Politika during her flight from Belgrade to The Hague on Saturday.
Plavsic became friendly with Albright when she served from 1996-98 as president of the Serb region of Bosnia created under the Dayton plan. Both defense and prosecution attorneys asked to call Albright as a witness.
Wiesel, who will testify for the prosecution, has written extensively about his survival of the Nazi death camps in the Holocaust. Prosecutors said he will address the importance of politicians taking responsibility for war crimes as a way to promote reconciliation and prevent historical revisionism.
U.N. chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte told the court Plavsic’s admission of guilt was an ``important step″ toward establishing the truth about atrocities committed by Serb forces in a war where over 200,000 Bosnians died.
However, Del Ponte said that in deciding a proper sentence for Plavsic, judges must weigh her crimes first, which were of the ``utmost gravity.″
O’Sullivan, the defense attorney, urged the court to consider several mitigating factors, including her voluntary surrender for trial, her guilty plea, her postwar role in promoting peace, and her remorse.
Although Plavsic was an outspoken Serb nationalist during the war years, she later softened her tone.
After the war, she broke with fellow wartime leader and friend Radovan Karadzic _ who remains the tribunal’s most wanted suspect. She eventually became a key figure in implementing the 1995 Dayton peace accord that ended the fighting in Bosnia.
In changing her plea in October, Plavsic conceded she was responsible for the crimes listed in the indictment, including ``forced transfer or deportation, unlawful detention and killing, cruel and inhumane treatment and inhumane conditions in detention facilities, destruction of cultural and sacred objects, plunder, wanton destruction, forced labor and use of human shields.″
Plavsic ``fully and unconditionally″ expressed remorse in a written statement. Sentences ranged from 5 years to 40 years in other cases at the tribunal where suspects have pleaded guilty.