News 04 Dec 17

Bosnian Serbs Oppose New Torture Victims Law

Bosnian Serb politicians and war victims’ groups said they will not support the adoption of a new state-level law on wartime victims of torture, claiming it would discriminate against Serbs.

Mladen Lakic
BIRN
East Sarajevo
Detainees at the Manjaca camp near Banja Luka in 1992. Photo: ICTY.

Bosnian Serb politicians and war victims’ groups are opposing new state-level law on wartime victims of torture, arguing that war crimes cannot be properly addressed on the state level because they allege that the state judiciary discriminates against Serbs.

“Bosnian Serb victims aren’t treated equally, we can see that based on the work of the prosecutor’s office of BiH [Bosnia and Herzegovina] and we don’t want the same situation to repeat itself with this law. This should be regulated on the Republika Srpska level instead,” Bozica Zivkovic Rajilic, the president of the Association of Women Victims of the War of Republika Srpska, told BIRN.

The draft Law on the Rights of Victims of Torture is open for public debate until Monday.

Milorad Kojic, the director of the Republika Srpska Centre for War Research, War Crimes and the Search for Missing Persons, told BIRN that Republika Srpska is preparing its on law on victims of torture that would be applied in the Serb-dominated entity.

“The adoption of this [state-level] draft law is directed directly against Republika Srpska and it represents the transfer of jurisdiction to the level of BiH,” Kojic said.

The adoption of the law, which should ensure the rights of wartime detainees who were physically abused in captivity, has failed before.

In June 2015, Bosnia’s human rights minister Semiha Borovac announced that the draft law would be sent to parliament by the end of that year, but the proposal failed to garner enough support.

Bosnian Serb officials have announced they will not support the law this time as well.

“Ministers of the Bosnian Serbs in the Council of Ministers of BiH will never support the adoption of the law on victims of torture at the level of BiH because there is no consent from Republika Srpska,” Predrag Jovic, Bosnia’s deputy minister of human rights and refugees, told news agency SRNA on Thursday.

Stasa Kosarac from Republika Srpska’s governing Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats also said that his party would “never vote for this law”.

However, the president of the Victims and Witnesses of Genocide association, Murat Tahirovic, told BIRN that the Bosnian Serbs’ fears are unfounded.

“If we can get the law on the state level, it will show that all victims are treated in the same way, no matter if they are Bosnian Serb, Bosnian Croats or Bosniaks,” Tahirovic said.

“We have been trying to adopt this law since 2006, but every time we are faced with the same problems, even though this kind of law will provide a fair and precise number of those who were victims of torture,” he added.

According to the Association of Camp Inmates, during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there were 1,350 detention camps across the country.

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