The project empirically investigates penal purposes and conditions under which sentences imposed by the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) are enforced in different European prison systems. The analysis explores how such enforcement practice influences the legitimacy of international criminal punishments and how it impacts the overarching goals of international criminal justice, such as reconciliation and maintenance of peace.
Status of project: Completed Project category: Dissertation Project languages: English Department: Criminology Project duration: Project start: 2012
Project end: 2018
The project represents a significant contribution to the curriculum of the International Max Planck Research School on Retaliation, Mediation and Punishment (IMPRS REMEP) on the use of punishment as an instrument of social control and governance of security on supranational and national levels. It also provides one of the first comprehensive interdisciplinary studies on the enforcement of international sentences, filling the existing research gap and providing valuable facts as well as recommendations for further development of law and practice in this important area of justice.
The ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) has profoundly influenced the development of penal reaction to international crimes during more than 20 years of its existence. Besides providing a much-needed momentum for prosecution and adjudication of international crimes, the Tribunal also established a system for enforcement of sentences where, in the absence of official international prison facilities, convicted persons are being transfered to national prisons in those European states that entered into special agreement for that purpose with the Tribunal, to serve their sentences there. None of the states of the former Yugoslavia are allowed to enforce the ICTY sentences.
The nature of such an enforcement system begs questions which challenge the legitimacy of international punishment as an accepted instrument of social control. First, the research evaluates the adequacy of national prison systems, in terms of conditions, regimes and programs, to purposesefully address the distinctive nature of criminality which differentiates most of international prisoners from ordinary prison population. Second, considering the allocation of international prisoners to various European states, the research measures the level of standardization of such enforcement, a key factor for the overall perception of the legitimacy of ICTY sentences. Consequently, the research evaluates to what extent the enforcement and its outcome purposefully contribute to the overarching goals of international criminal justice, such as restoration and maintenance of peace between conflicting parties.
The empirical inquiry is grounded in qualitative methodology; i.e. qualitative content analysis of case files and media reports and semi-structured interviews with both ICTY prisoners and ex-prisoners, national prison staff in enforcing states and ICTY/MICT officials.
Findings of the project indicate that some of the issues relating to the imposition of the ICTY sentences are also present within the mechanism of their enforcement. Penological framework is particularly underdeveloped with regard to substantial reflection on the purposes of imprisonment and methods to achieve them (i.e. rehabilitation of perpetrators of international crimes). This resulted in an ambiguous set of rules which in practice can lead to discretionary decisions, politicization and inequality in the prison treatment of international offenders. Prisoners seem to be randomly allocated to an enforcement state, where they are mixed with with ordinary prisoners and subject to general (if any) rehabilitation programs, the effect of which in many cases is rather dubious. Afterwards, they are usually released prior to serving their full term in prison, mostly based on good behavior and seemingly without any sort of formal supervision which in practice amounts to de facto commutation of their punishment. When this is also supplemented by a grand reception and dedication of high honors upon return to their home states, the overall mechanism could be seen to greatly detract from the reconciliatory efforts of the conflicting parties. This is certainly an unwanted outcome, since 'the contribution to restoration and maintenance of peace' is precisely one of the most important principles under which the ICTY operates. Additionally, the enforcement practice shows a lack of regulatory uniformity and a non-transparent attribution or denial of privileges and prerogatives to international prisoners, which can in fact also lead to a significant aggravation of enforcement of their sentences.
- Vojta, F. (2018). Punishment and Sentence Enforcement for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Former Yugoslavia (PhD Thesis). Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg i. Br.
- Vojta, F. (2018). Enforcement of International Sentences in Light of the ICC Decision in Lubanga and Katanga Cases. Freedom From Fear Magazine, (14), 29–35.
- Vojta, F. (2014). Punishment and Sentence Enforcement for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Former Yugoslavia. In A.-M. Getoš Kalac, H.-J. Albrecht, & M. Kilchling, Mapping the Criminological Landscape of the Balkans: A Survey on Criminology and Crime with an Expedition into the Criminal Landscape of the Balkans (pp. 401–428) Schriftenreihe des Max-Planck-Instituts für ausländisches und internationales Strafrecht : Publications of the Max Planck Partner Group for Balkan Criminology. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
- Vojta, F. (2014). Some Observations on the Enforcement of International Sentences in the Case of the ICTY. Special International Issue, 32–33.
Research School: Research on Retaliation, Mediation and Punishment