News 18 May 17

Wartime Rapes of Men Remains Taboo in Bosnia

Some 3,000 men and boys were raped during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s, but their stories remain untold in Bosnia's macho culture, the Williams Institute reports.

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
BIRN
Banja Luka
'All Survvivors Project' logo. Photo: All Survivors Project

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina took sexual violence to new levels, but more than two decades on, male victims remain a taboo topic, the Williams Institute from the University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA, has reported in its publication Legacies and Lessons.

“Conflict-related sexual violence against men and boys remains one of the least documented and most inadequately addressed of all the egregious human rights abuses that took place”, the think tank said in its latest publication issued under the All Survivors Project.

According to the publication, some 3,000 men and boys were raped in the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia.

Under-reporting of the crime and denial have prevented men and boys from seeking justice for the abuse they suffered, the Institute explains.

It adds that although stigma and shame remain powerful deterrents to admitting what happened, Bosnia also lacks adequate laws to deal with the issue.

“Information gathered by All Survivors Project indicates that there is no specific training available to help police identify and investigate sexual violence,” the think tank said.

“Judges, magistrates and other judicial officials also lack understanding of and sensitivity towards victims of sexual violence, and procedures to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of victims at all stages, including during court hearings, are lacking.”

The absence of an accurate database of survivors of wartime sexual abuse is an added obstacle.

“The majority of cases that are documented took place in detention, often in concentration camps, in which civilians were interned in appalling conditions, although there were also cases of sexual violence against men in other contexts, including during lootings and household interrogations,” the Institute said.

It said the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, had made some progress in this arena by establishing rape as a violation of the laws and customs of war and as a crime against humanity, as well as clarifying the law governing conflict-related sexual violence.

“Ten of the 78 cases prosecuted by the ICTY have featured sexual violence against men, bringing recognition that certain acts against men constitute international crimes, including forced oral sex, other forced sexual acts, genital mutilation, blunt trauma to genitals and threats of sexual mutilation,” the Institute noted.

However, it judged that despite the ICTY’s positive contribution, concerns remain that the sexual nature of offences against men and boys has not been fully recognised.

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