Women who were raped during the wars in Bosnia and Croatia deserve justice, redress and reparation, concluded round tables on victims’ rights in Sarajevo and the Croatian city of Vukovar.
Lejla Mamut, from the Swiss human rights NGO, TRIAL, said at the Sarajevo round table that the Bosnian government should ensure that each victim of war, especially victims of sexual violence, have access to justice.
“Victims must have a right to free legal aid and support. They also require information from the judicial institutions about what is happening with their case. Bosnia has achieved progress, but there is still more to be done,” said Mamut.
But Croatia has even more to do, according to the permanent representative of the UNDP programme in Croatia, Louisa Vinton. Speaking at the Vukovar round table ‘Sexual violence in war’, she said that the current Croatian laws do not provide adequate justice for the victims.
Vinton emphasized that rape was used as a weapon to frighten and humiliate the enemy during the wars in the former Yugoslavia.
“It is necessary to restore victims’ dignity, which is possible only by punishing the perpetrators,” Vinton said.
Several Croatian war rape victims said at the Vukovar round table that they had given their testimony to police several times, but that nothing happened and nobody was prosecuted.
“Raped women have already given their statements to the police, but those statements are missing. I personally talked to the media several years ago about my rape, but nobody official ever asked me anything," one of the victims said.
“We cannot expect raped women to walk from door to door and talk about what happened to them. That’s the duty of society,” said Marija Sliskovic from the Women in Homeland War association, which claims that Croatian society is irresponsible towards war rape victims.
In Sarajevo, Bozidarka Dodik and Ibro Bulic, the Bosnian State prosecutors, Alma Taso-Deljkovic, head of the witness support program for the Bosnian Court and Sabiha Husic, from Medica Zenica, talked about their work with female victims of sexual violence, who appear as protected witnesses.
Representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina said that quality work with protected witnesses requires more funding than they have available.
The Sarajevo round table took place on April 4, and was organized by the Swiss Track Impunity Always organisation, TRIAL, Medica Zenica and the International criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY.
The Vukovar round table was held a day earlier, and was organized by the UN and the Vukovar city administration, under the auspices of the Croatian president Ivo Josipovic.
Prior to both round tables, the participants were shown a documentary called ‘Sexual violence and the Triumph of Justice’, made by the ICTY Outreach Programme.
“The goal of this film is to show facts which have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, especially at a time where court facts are being negated daily,” said Nerma Jelacic, an ICTY spokesperson, in Sarajevo.
The screening of the ICTY documentary and round tables will continue during April and May in Tuzla, Mostar and Prijedor, and then Serbia.
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