News 23 Jan 13

Bosnia Urged to Fight Human Trafficking

The Bosnian judiciary must take human trafficking more seriously, by adopting stricter laws and training prosecutors to deal with these cases, an OSCE conference in Sarajevo concluded. 

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo
OSCE Conference in Sarajevo/Photo by BIRN

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, said that Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing a lot of criticism from the international community because its current legislation is not equipped to prosecute the most severe cases of human trafficking.

Namely, Bosnia currently has legislation banning human trafficking only on State level, but not in the two entities – the Bosnian Serb dominated Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation – and Brcko district, which, as the OSCE said, is hampering prosecutions.

“Human trafficking is trafficking human misery. Such a heinous crime demands a robust response, on all levels. We hope that this conference will help us agree with lawmakers across the country how to make the necessary changes”, said Fletcher Burton, Head of the the Bosnian OSCE mission.

To date, the Bosnian State court has pronounced ten verdicts for human trafficking cases. These cases involved 35 accused persons, out of which 27 have been convicted. Eighteen of the defendants concluded plea agreements.

Meanwhile there have been at least a dozen cases consisting of conduct amounting to trafficking in human beings, but which have been qualified under other crimes in the Entity Criminal Codes.

This situation, according to Bosnian State coordinator for human trafficking issues Samir Rizvo, demonstrates the inadequate nature of the Bosnian legislative framework.  

“We have been suffering criticism of the international community because the Bosnian entities and Brcko district have not met standards adopted by civilized and developed countries. I am hopeful this conference will put an end to that, and that afterwards, the entity parliament will adopt these laws”, added Rizvo.

Aleksandra Pandurevic, president of the Bosnian parliament's human rights committee, said that in 2009, after the State level government adopted a law penalizing human trafficking, Bosnia was listed among the top 32 countries in the world in the fight against human trafficking by the US State Department.

“However, because of our inability to adopt these laws on an entity level, we have dropped significantly on this list. This is why we must act swiftly and regain our rating”, said Pandurevic.

The conference was attended and supported by the US ambassador to Bosnia, Patrick Moon, Mary Ann Hennessey, Head of the Council of Europe's office in the country and a representative of the EU delegation. They all stressed that human trafficking is one of the vital issues Bosnia is facing today.

The US ambassador explained that Bosnia lost its rating because in 2011 there were no prosecutions for human trafficking at the state level.

“Trafficking is a big problem for Bosnia, both internally, and in transit, this is why we call on lawmakers to adopt laws to reflect the severity of these crimes,” Moon said.

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