News 14 Jun 12

Bosnian Female War Victims Discriminated, Says NGO

Bosnia should urgently adopt a transitional justice strategy and ensure it is gender sensitive, as female victims are currently discriminated against, claims a report by the NGO Impunity Watch.

Denis Dzidic

The report by the Dutch based human rights watchdog, has a series of recommendations for Bosnian authorities, NGO’s and donors, in order to improve the position of wartime victims in the country.

The research, the aim of which was to establish whether male and female war victims have different needs, took six months.

According to Maja Sostaric, an international-relations analyst for Impunity Watch, Bosnia and Herzegovina does not allow the same level of access to transitional justice mechanisms to male and female victims.

“Unequal access implies discrimination. Women do not have to be victims of rape in order to be discriminated. Women who live in rural areas and in poverty, jobless returnee women, women looking for their missing husbands and children and those that are homeless, are all in a difficult situation,” said Sostaric.

The Impunity Watch report urges a speedy adoption of the State Transitional Justice strategy. An expert team is currently working on the strategy with the help of UNDP, and this is expected to be presented before the Bosnian Parliament later this month.

The report has a series of recommendations for the Bosnian Council of Ministers and Parliament on how to improve the gender sensitivity of different transitional justice mechanisms.

It recommends the Bosnian authorities to harmonize the reparation scheme so that civilian victims of war – mostly female – and former war veterans, who are mostly male, receive an equal amount.

It also proposes adopting a state level law for victims of torture and civilian victims of war which would regulate their rights and set up a common award system for former camp detainees.

Different court practices in Bosnia when it comes to lawsuits by former camp detainees, lead to vast differences in the size of the awards per day spent in the camp. The sums awarded in previous verdicts have ranged from 4 to 500 euros per day in captivity.

The victimisation of women, according to the Impunity Watch report, is a serious issue that has to be addressed. The report proposes promotion of equal participation of women in transitional justice processes.

It is suggested that Bosnian judicial institutions should employ more women and prioritize the prosecution of wartime rape cases and sexual abuse, as well as hire prosecutors who specialise in prosecuting cases of war time sexual abuse.

“Women victims of wartime rape are still stigmatized, and their husbands often abuse them or abandon them, while male victims of sexual abuse are a taboo,” said Sostaric. 

The report also discusses the RECOM initiative of creating a regional commission tasked with establishing facts about war crimes and human rights violations committed in former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 2001, pointing out the need that such a commission should be gender sensitive and take into account the views of wartime rape victims.

Impunity Watch will officially present its report titled “Gender-sensitivity of the processes of Truth, Justice, Reparations and Non-Recurrence”  at a round table in Sarajevo later this month.



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