Does Remorse Count? ICTY Convicts’ Reflections on Their Crimes in Early Release Decisions

Barbora Hola, J. van Wijk, Fransesca Costantini, Armi Korhonen

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Based on all publicly available International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) early release decisions as of May 31, 2017, this explorative article empirically analyzes, systematizes, and evaluates how ICTY convicts reflected on their past crimes during early release proceedings and how this affected decision-making of the ICTY President regarding their level of rehabilitation and early release. For this purpose, we developed an analytical framework distinguishing between acknowledgement of responsibility and remorse, as two forms of reflection on the past crimes, and their general and personal dimensions. Our analysis demonstrates that of all 53 individuals early released at the ICTY, 36% were considered sufficiently rehabilitated and a part of their sentence pardoned without any information regarding their outlook on the crimes they had been convicted of. Only 19% of the early released prisoners acknowledged their personal responsibility and expressed remorse for the crimes they committed. Others denied, only partially accepted responsibility and/or showed remorse on a general level, which, however, did not bar their early release. The article argues that this haphazard practice brings into question the ICTY legacy with respect to its goal of offender rehabilitation and its potential effects on reconciliation in the Former Yugoslavia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-371
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Criminal Justice Review
Issue number4
Early online date19 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • acknowledgement of responsibility
  • early release
  • ICTY
  • rehabilitation
  • remorse


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