News 21 Jun 17

OSCE: Bosnia Boosts Wartime Sexual Violence Prosecutions

Over the past three years, courts and prosecutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina have processed more cases involving wartime sexual violence than before, but more needs to be done, a new OSCE report says.

Admir Muslimovic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Jonathan Moore, the head of the OSCE mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo: BIRN.

A new OSCE report, ‘Achieving justice for Victims of Sexual Violence in Armed Conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina’, launched on Wednesday in Sarajevo, says that the country’s judiciary has made more effort to prosecute cases of wartime sexual violence over the past three years.

From 2014 to 2016, about a third of war crimes cases before Bosnian courts involved sexual violence, in comparison to only a quarter of cases in the period from 2011 to 2013, the report says.

However, many victims of wartime sexual violence are still seeking justice over two decades after the conflict, it cautions.

“These acts happened more than 20 years ago. Unfortunately, not much justice has been achieved. Victims feel as if they are under emotional and other types of pressure. This refers to both women and men,” said Jonathan Moore, the head of the OSCE mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The British ambassador to Sarajevo, Edward Ferguson, said it was necessary to work on finding the truth for the victims in order to eliminate the feeling of stigmatisation.

“We are working on ensuring access to justice by victims. For the first time the victims have the possibility to be granted compensation as per a court decision and have the compensation paid by their abusers,” Ferguson said.

“We hope this process will encourage even more victims to testify and persevere to achieve justice,” he added.

The report says that prosecutors and judges have been applying international standards in a more consistent manner in recent years.

In most verdicts, they use the practices of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in an attempt to ensure that perpetrators of such crimes do not go unpunished.

“It is my pleasure to see positive results in terms of a bigger number of processed cases and better diversity of legal approaches being used,” said Michaelle Jarvis, deputy prosecutor at the ICTY.

“This type of case still represents a challenge in terms of pronouncement of responsibility. Many challenges still remain ahead of us, because numerous victims are still waiting for justice,” Jarvis added.

From 2014 to 2016 the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina tried 36 war crimes cases that involved elements of sexual violence.

Four trials that involved elements of sexual violence have also begun this year.

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