News 07 Nov 17

Bosnia to Step Up Dealing With Legacy of War, CoE Says

Bosnia and Herzegovina should step up the prosecution of wartime crimes and uphold the human rights of all civilian war victims, a new Council of Europe report says.

BIRN
Council of Europe human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks. Photo: CoE

According to the Council of Europe report, based on a country visit by human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks, authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina should spare no effort to build a truly cohesive society.

“The authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina should lay the foundations for a more cohesive society by tackling the disruptive legacy of the war. It is particularly crucial to step up the prosecution of wartime crimes and uphold the human rights of all civilian war victims, especially internally displaced people and the families of missing persons,” Muiznieks said on Tuesday.

He called on the authorities at all levels to ensure that war victims, in particular victims of war-related crimes of sexual violence and victims of torture, are provided with adequate and effective reparation.

The report also recommended the adoption and implementation of the draft Law on the Rights of Victims of Torture and the Programme for Improvement of the Status of Survivors of Conflict related Sexual Violence. Additionally, it called on Sarajevo to give effect to the 2004 Law on Missing Persons by establishing a fund for the families of all missing persons.

Noting that more than 6,800 persons are still missing, the Commissioner recommended that the authorities strengthen efforts to clarify their fate and to establish a fund to support their families.

In addition, he advocated for the further improvement of the protection of witnesses.

The report also points out that Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia are still baring the extradition of their nationals charged for war crimes, further undermining criminal justice efforts.

Around 1,200 war crime cases, involving 5,000 suspects, still need to prosecuted, according to the report, while a lack of expertise by the war crime prosecutors and inadequate management of war crime cases are additionally creating a back log of cases.

Muiznieks also called for assistance to some 50,000 internally displaced persons who need sustained attention and assistance to be built upon.

“The authorities should facilitate safe and sustainable return of IDPs [internally displaced persons] who wish to do so and ensure access to social and economic rights.”

Emphasising the role of education as a tool to promote reconciliation and to rebuild a tolerant and inclusive society, the Commissioner also urged the authorities to end ethnic segregation in education by abolishing ‘two schools under one roof’ and mono-ethnic schools. Instead, he believes a common core curriculum should be developed and implemented.

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