News 20 Nov 14

Protocol on Sexual Violence Greeted in Bosnia

An inter-governmental protocol on investigating and documenting sexual violence in conflicts was promoted in Sarajevo on Wednesday with a message that it is vital to ensure there is no climate of impunity over such crimes.

Justice Report
BIRN
Sarajevo

A protocol on sexual violence in war, presented in June at an international summit in London, was promoted on Wednesday in Sarajevo.

It contains guidelines and best practices for the recognition and documentation of such cases.

The protocol, which has been adopted by 155 countries is not binding and is not a legal instrument. However, representatives of Bosnian institutions have strongly supported its application in the country as a result of Bosnia's particular experience of war in the 1990s.

The application of the guidelines has already started in Bosnia through the training of police investigators, prosecutors and judges.

Speaking at the event in Sarajevo, the British ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Edward Ferguson, said victims of these crimes should not only obtain justice in court but also compensation.

The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina has organized the training of more than 40 investigators and over 50 judges and prosecutors to deal with the phenomenon.

“There are thousands of perpetrators of sexual violence in this country and most of them are [still] free,” the head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia, Jonathan Moore, observed.

“The victims of sexual violence are still marginalized. There are still no adequate policies for their support. Beside prosecution, we must create better mechanisms to support victims,” Bakir Izetbegovic, member of Bosnia's state presidency, said.

The President of Bosnia's High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, Milan Tegeltija, said it was vital to continuously educate judges and prosecutors to work on these types of cases.

“Within the implementation of this Protocol, a special module has been developed to serve as educational material for judges and prosecutors, and this specialized education will begin tomorrow, within the the centre for the education of judges and prosecutors,” Tegeltija said.

The OSCE has already strained 18 police investigators in the field, who have become certified educators, and who will continue to train their colleagues.

Branka Curguz, from the Bosnian Serb interior ministry, said victims of sexual violence in the war of the 1990s were still awaiting justice.

“Sometimes we deal with survivors who have never spoken about crimes, and some are frustrated that they have spoken up about this several times, but justice has not come,” she remarked.

“Unfortunately, the prevention of sexual violence hasn’t been a priority until now in the training of armies. Members of peacekeeping missions must be equipped to stop, document and enable prosecution of organizers and perpetrators of sexual crimes,” Bosnian Deputy Defence Minister Marina Pendes, said.

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