News 12 Sep 17

Bosnia Urged to Accelerate Wartime Rape Prosecutions

Bosnia has failed to provide justice for thousands of women who were raped during the 1992-95 war and must speed up prosecutions and ensure victims get compensation, a new Amnesty International report said.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo
A survivor outside her home in northern Bosnia. Photo: Amnesty International.

The Bosnian authorities must speed up the prosecution of wartime rape cases to ensure that victims get justice, said a new report entitled ‘We Need Support, Not Pity’, published by campaign group Amnesty International on Tuesday.

“More than two decades after the war, tens of thousands of women in Bosnia are still piecing together their shattered lives with little access to the medical, psychological and financial assistance they desperately need,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s deputy Europe director.

“As each year passes, so does the prospect of ever attaining justice or receiving the support to which they are entitled,” van Gulik added.

During the conflict, thousands of women and girls were subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence by military and paramilitary groups, Amnesty International said i the report.

But courts across the country have completed only 123 cases involving sexual violence charges since 2004, although the number of prosecutions has increased in recent years, it added.

Along with speeding up prosecutions, Amnesty International urged the Bosnian authorities to make sure that victims get adequate psychological help.

The campaign group also called on Bosnia to consider revising its criminal codes to end the possibility of sentences for crimes under international law from provisions being converted into fines, as such a practice is tantamount to granting an amnesty, which is prohibited under international law.

According to Bosnian law, all final verdicts of up to a year in prison can be converted into a fine, which has happened in several war crimes cases.

Amnesty International also called on courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina to honour victims testifying in war crimes cases by informing them of the right to file claims for compensation for material and non-material damages, and by consulting them before entering into plea-bargain agreements with the accused.

The campaign group further called for the courts to provide clear reasoning for each individual case when deciding on whether to reduce sentences due to mitigating factors.

“The application of mitigating factors in cases involving crimes under international law should never lead to sentences imposed being at a level that the law envisages for minor offences,” it said in the report.

Amnesty International urged Bosnian institutions to establish a victim compensation fund for the survivors of wartime sexual violence, in particular to address the cases where convicted perpetrators are not able to pay damages imposed by courts.

It also called on the Constitutional Court to reconsider the position that the statute of limitation applies to compensation claims related to crimes under international law.

Hundreds of former camp detainees in Bosnia and Herzegovina have filed suits against the entities in the country for damages, but because of the Constitutional Court ruling, these cases are rejected as the statute of limitations has passed.

“Whilst the trauma of the past can never be unlived, it is not too late to ensure that the future of these women is one where their rights and their dignity can finally be reclaimed,” van Gulik said.

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