News 09 Sep 16

Bosnian War Rape Victims Struggle for Compensation

Only three verdicts in state-level war crimes cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina have ever ordered compensation payments to victims of sexual violence, but none of the victims has received any money yet.

Justice Report
BIRN
Sarajevo
The Bosnian state court. Photo: BIRN.

The Bosnian state court has made three compensation orders in wartime sexual violence cases, but none of the victims has received any payment from the perpetrators, BIRN has learned.

An ‘execution procedure’ has been launched against former Bosnian Serb soldier Slavko Savic in an attempt to get him to pay 30,000 Bosnian marks (15,340 euros) to the victim he raped in Vogosca in 1993, as ordered by the state court.

But his defence has insisted that he has no property or income that would enable him to pay.

Lawyer Nedzla Sehic said that an execution procedure will also be launched against former Bosnian Serb soldiers Bosiljko and Ostoja Markovic, who were convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl in the Kotor Varos area in 1992.

They were ordered to pay the victim 26,500 Bosnian Marks (13,550 euros) in compensation for the anguish they caused.

But Sehic said that if the two men have no money or property, it’s unclear how the victims will be able to get the compensation specified in the verdict.

Sehic explained that the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has ruled that compensation cannot be obtained from the state or from one of the country’s two entities, but only from the immediate perpetrator.

Under the ruling, all such claims against the state or entities in war crimes cases are considered to be expired under the statute of limitations.

“This is disastrous for victims of torture, since this allows them no guaranteed way to get compensation for their suffering,” she said.

The NGO TRIAL International has suggested that if a perpetrator has no money to pay compensation, a potential step might be to initiate a civil case against the state or the relevant entity for payment.

“The amount itself would not be disputable in such a procedure,” said Adrijana Hanusic-Becirovic, senior legal advisor with TRIAL International.

“Such a procedure would focus on determining the responsibility of the state or the relevant entity for paying the amount,” she said.

Hanusic-Becirovic argued that in cases in which a verdict orders a perpetrator to pay compensation but the perpetrator does not have the money, the state is obliged to step in and make the payment.

“International standards clearly foresee such an obligation,” she said.

Hanusic-Becirovic said that TRIAL International has launched civil proceedings against nine other perpetrators who were convicted of wartime sexual violence but not ordered to pay compensation.

Sehic, who represents victims’ interests in the Bosnian courts, says that several war crimes cases related to sexual violence are currently underway before entity-level courts.

She told BIRN that she is currently representing a victim in a case in which the defendant signed a plea agreement before the Cantonal Court in Bihac, and as part of the deal, agreed to pay compensation to the victim.

BIRN contacted cantonal and district courts in both Bosnian entities about the issue, but they said they have never been in a position to resolve requests for compensation within war crimes proceedings.

The president of the District Court in Doboj, Dusko Ninkovic, said the reason for this was that victims often do not file “clear and specific” compensation claims.

The Basic Court in the Brcko District said that victims were advised to file civil suits, because resolving compensation requests within criminal proceedings would delay war crime trials.

In previous years, the state court used to give the same explanation, but its practices have changed due to the influence of non-governmental organisations.

In the cantonal and district courts, two victims of sexual violence during wartime have so far managed to get compensation of 25,000 euros each.

This happened as a result of a plea agreement between defendants and the cantonal prosecution in Bihac. Both defendants made the payments.

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