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Prof. Dr.
Biljana Plavšić
Биљана Плавшић
Biljana Plavsic.JPG
Plavšić in 1996
2nd President of Republika Srpska
In office
19 July 1996 – 4 November 1998
Vice President Nikola Koljević
Dragoljub Mirjanić
Preceded by Radovan Karadžić
Succeeded by Nikola Poplašen
Vice President of Republika Srpska
In office
December 1992 – 19 July 1996
Serving with Nikola Koljević
President Radovan Karadžić
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Dragoljub Mirjanić
Serb Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina
In office
20 December 1990 – 9 April 1992
Serving with Nikola Koljević
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Nenad Kecmanović
Personal details
Born (1930-07-07) 7 July 1930 (age 94)
Tuzla, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Political party Serb National Alliance (1997–2006)
Serb Democratic Party (1990–1997)
Alma mater University of Zagreb
Nicknames Serb Iron Lady
Serb Empress (by Željko Ražnatović Arkan)

Biljana Plavšić (Serbian Cyrillic: Биљана Плавшић; born 7 July 1930) is a Bosnian Serb former politician, university professor and scientist who served as President of Republika Srpska and was later convicted of crimes against humanity for her role in the Bosnian War.

Plavšić was indicted in 2001 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for war crimes committed during the Bosnian War. She plea-bargained with the ICTY and was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2003, to be served in a Swedish prison.

She was released on 27 October 2009 after serving two-thirds of her sentence. Plavšić is, together with Radovan Karadžić, the highest ranking Bosnian Serb politician to be sentenced. Before entering politics, she taught biology at the University of Sarajevo.

Academic career

Plavšić was a university professor teaching biology at the University of Sarajevo and was the Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. She is a Fulbright Scholar, and as such she spent two years at Boyce-Thompson institute at Cornell University in New York doing botany research. She then specialized in electron microscopy in London, and plant virology in Prague and Bari. She published over one hundred scientific works and papers.

Political career

Plavšić was a member of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS). She was the first female member of the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, serving from 18 November 1990 until April 1992 after having been elected in the first multi-party elections in 1990 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. From 28 February 1992 to 12 May 1992, Plavšić became one of the two acting presidents of the self-proclaimed Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thereafter she became one of two Vice-presidents of the Republika Srpska and from circa 30 November 1992 she was a member of the Supreme Command of the armed forces of the Republika Srpska.

Biljana Plavsic (6938761997)
Plavšić and other Bosnian Serb women leaders in Banja Luka

Plavšić declared that "six million Serbs can die so that the remaining six million can live in freedom" and considered the ethnic cleansing carried out against non-Serbs during the war to be a "natural phenomenon".

This statement by Plavšić, which equated a specific ethnic group with a disease or illness, has been compared to how the Nazis identified the Jews.

The Dayton Agreement, signed in 1995, banned the then President of Republika Srpska Radovan Karadžić from office and Plavšić was chosen to run as the SDS candidate for President of the Republika Srpska for a two-year mandate.

Vojislav Šešelj, at the Milošević trial, described Karadžić's motives for nominating her.

She severed her ties with the SDS and formed Srpski narodni savez (Serbian People's Alliance of the Republika Srpska), and nominated Milorad Dodik, the then member of the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska whose SNSD party had only two MPs, for Prime Minister. She lost the 1998 election to the joint candidate of the SDS and the Serbian Radical Party of the Republika Srpska Nikola Poplašen. She was a candidate of the reform "Sloga" coalition. During her time in prison, she released a book called "Witnessings" (Svjedočenja), revealing many aspects of the political life of the war-time Republika Srpska. In 1998, Plavšić rewarded Momčilo Đujić, a Chetnik commander and Nazi collaborator, with an honorary award.

ICTY indictment and sentence

She was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia together with Momčilo Krajišnik and Radovan Karadžić for the "creation of impossible conditions of life, persecution and terror tactics in order to encourage non-Serbs to leave the area, deportation of those reluctant to leave, and the liquidation of others". The Indictment charged Biljana Plavšić as follows:

  • Two counts of genocide (Article 4 of the Statute of the Tribunal – genocide; and/or, complicity to commit genocide)
  • Five counts of crimes against humanity (Article 5 thereof – extermination; murder; persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds; deportation; alternatively, inhumane acts)
  • One count of violations of the laws or customs of war (Article 3 thereof – murder)

She voluntarily surrendered to the ICTY on 10 January 2001, and was provisionally released on 6 September.

On 16 December 2002, she plea bargained with the ICTY to enter a guilty plea to one count of crimes against humanity for her part in directing the war and targeting civilians and expressed "full remorse" in exchange for prosecutors dropping seven other war crimes charges, including two counts of genocide. Plavšić's statement, read in her native Serbian language, repeated her admission of guilt. It said she had refused to believe stories of atrocities against Bosniaks and Croats and accepted without question the claims that Serbs were fighting for survival.

Biljana Plavšić (cropped)
Plavšić in 2021 after recovering from COVID-19

In an interview she gave in March 2005 to the Banja Luka Alternativna Television, however, she admitted she had pleaded guilty because she could not prove her innocence, as she was unable to find witnesses who would testify on her behalf. She repeated this in an interview for Swedish Vi magazine in January 2009. She claimed to have pleaded guilty in order to avoid the remaining charges against her, including genocide. Her pleading guilty led the Hague tribunal to lower her sentence and drop the remaining charges. Plavšić would have likely have been sentenced to 20–25 years in prison if she had not pleaded guilty and all eight charges would have been taken into account.

She was sentenced to 11 years in prison. She served her sentence at the women's prison Hinseberg in Frövi, Örebro County, Sweden (since 26 June 2003). In December 2008, the Swedish Ministry of Justice rejected a request for pardon by Plavšić. She had cited "advancing age, failing health and poor prison conditions" as the reasons for her request. Željko Komšić, a Croat member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina had written a letter to the Swedish authorities in September 2008 urging them not to release Plavšić, stating that "any act of mercy would be big mistake and an insult to the victims and families of the victims".

On 14 September 2009, Patrick Robinson, President of the United Nations' International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said Plavšić "appears to have demonstrated substantial evidence of rehabilitation" and had accepted responsibility for her crimes. The Times continued that "Under Swedish law, she becomes eligible for release 27 October, after serving two-thirds of her term, though her release date has not been set." She was released on 27 October 2009. On the same day, Milorad Dodik, Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, provided an RS government jet to pick up Plavšić and welcomed her to Belgrade after her early release from a Swedish prison. Dodik cited "purely moral reasons" for doing so. On 10 November 2009, Milorad Dodik revealed that he seriously considered giving Plavšić an office in the Senate. He stated "we are working on revising the law on the President of the Republic, which would award Plavšić, and other former presidents, the opportunity to enjoy some privileges like the office, monetary compensation, counselor, secretary, official car with a driver and so forth."

Awards and decorations

Award or decoration Country
BIH Order of the Republic of Srpska ribbon.svg Order of the Republika Srpska  Republika Srpska
Medal For Bravery Miloš Obilić SPP SrbDobGarda.svg Serb Volunteer Guard

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Biljana Plavšić para niños

  • Bosnian genocide
  • Serbian war crimes in the Yugoslav Wars
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