news 18 Jan 13

Croatia War Rape Victims 'Deserve Justice'

Croatian rights groups have called for legal reforms to ensure sex attackers during the 1990s conflict are prosecuted and their victims helped.

Boris Pavelic

At a conference in Zagreb on Thursday, rights campaigners said that legal procedures were inadequate and wartime rape victims were not getting enough help.

Mario Mazic, president of the Croatian branch of NGO Youth Initiative for Human Rights, said that the country’s legislation needed to be upgraded to international standards so victims can get justice.

"We’re just asking for the legislative possibility for war rapes perpetrators to be prosecuted and punished," Mazic said.

Croatia’s ombudsman for gender rights, Visnja Ljubicic, said the state had an obligation to help the victims.

They need psychological and social assistance, while judges need to be educated in order to properly conduct war rape trials, she said.

She also called for an official registry of those raped during the war to be established, and said that such uncomfortable issues need to be debated openly rather than being ignored.

"Public silence about war rapes leads the whole process in the wrong direction," Ljubicic said.

Sixty-seven women were raped during the war, according a report from the Croatian state prosecutor's office published in 2011.

In ten of those cases, the perpetrators remain unidentified.

Milena Calic Jelic from the NGO Documenta told the conference that its analysis showed that "about fifty" were raped during the war.

She said Documenta's monitors had reported on 19 trials in which sexual attacks were qualified as war crimes.

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