The large number of unprosecuted rape crimes during the Bosnian war is one of the reasons the British government has decided to form a team of investigators to help prosecute wartime sexual violence.
William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, has announced that the United Kingdom government will create a team that will include police officers, lawyers, psychologists and forensic experts who will travel to war zones in order to gather evidence about mass sexual violence.
Hague said governments are not doing enough to stop wartime sexual violence and rape.
“We have to ensure equal rights for women at every level of society and to protect the vulnerable, most of all our children. But it is in the context of war and conflict that sexual violence is found to the most appalling degree and on a scale most of us cannot imagine,” he said.
The goal of the expert team, Hague explained, will be to gather evidence that can be used at domestic trials of rape suspects.
Explaining the need for such a team, Hague said that up to 50,000 women were raped in Bosnia during the early 1990’s conflict but only about 30 direct perpetrators were convicted by the local courts and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY.
The issue of wartime rape in Bosnia has been made international news in February this year, when a Hollywood movie “In the Land of Blood and Honey” and the documentary “Ending Impunity”, both dealing with rape during the war in Bosnia, had their premiers.
Angelina Jolie, director of “In the Land of Blood and Honey”, gave her support to Hague’s initiative.
The documentary “Ending Impunity” discusses the ICTY's historical role in the criminal prosecution of sexual abuse committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia which paved the way for other courts throughout the world to process such crimes.
The ICTY has included rape among crimes against humanity and since the beginning of its work, the Hague Tribunal has charged 78, out of the total of 161 indictees, with sexual crimes.
The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has had trials for about 20 defendants charged with crimes of sexual nature.