Should BiH introduce Life Imprisonment: An expensive, but effective Prison Sentence

Life imprisonment could soon be included in the Republika Srpska (RS) Criminal Code, but in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), there is still no initiative for such legal changes.

While the entities are divided as usual, now the opinion of experts on the life imprisonment topic is different as well, writes.

The most severe prison sentence in BiH is 21 to 45 years in prison, according to the Criminal Code of BiH. However, the courts in our country rarely impose the most severe sentences.

Zijad Turkovic got the longest prison sentence of 40 years, while Milenko Lakic received 35 years. Jasminko Jasarevic was also sentenced to a total of 42 years in prison for the murder of Ramiza Rahimic and the famous photo reporter Ante Boras in 2005 in Mostar.

However, some experts think that life imprisonment is not a good solution. Therefore, in many more developed countries, it is widely believed that life imprisonment is even worse than the death penalty.

Namely, the Draft Law on Amendments to the Criminal Code of the RS will be presented to the members of the National Assembly of the RS on February 9th. If these amendments are accepted, the perpetrators of the most serious forms of crime in the RS could soon be sentenced to life imprisonment.

As noted in the explanation of the amendments to the Criminal Code, life imprisonment in RS would be imposed for aggravated murder, sexual intercourse with a child under the age of fifteen if the act resulted in the death of a child, for the murder of RS government officials, the most serious form of crime against the constitutional order of the RS if the perpetrator intentionally killed one or more persons while committing the crime, for terrorism if the acts resulted in great destruction or death of one or more persons, or if the perpetrator intentionally killed a person during the commission of the crime.

On the other hand, in the FBiH, the maximum prison sentence is still up to 45 years, and which can only be imposed on a perpetrator who was 21 years old at the time of the commission of the criminal offense.

The director of the Sarajevo Penitentiary, Faruk Zupcevic, explains that the treatment of prisoners who serve the longest prison sentences is very specific, especially in the case of life imprisonment.

“The introduction of life imprisonment at the state level in BiH should be the topic of serious working-consultative meetings of BiH experts in this field, where it would be precisely specified and determined what we get by introducing this punishment and what the consequences are,” Zupcevic said.

Life imprisonment has been part of the criminal codes of many countries for a long time, including Belgium, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Hungary, Malta, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Turkey. These countries process the sentence of life imprisonment in a very specific way, said Zupcevic.

For example, prisoners in Lithuania or the Czech Republic who have been sentenced to life imprisonment must first serve a period of 10 to 15 years in a special prison unit before being transferred to a regular prison unit where they can be together with other convicted prisoners.

“Life imprisonment brings enormous complexities in the organization of prison units. The treatment and resocialization of such convicts are different and quite expensive,” Zupcevic added.

Apart from that, the longest prison sentences within the FBiH are served in the Zenica Penitentiary, which is specialized for this category of prisoners, that is, where convicts are provided with additional activities and special medical treatments.

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