Justice denied for Bosnian war rape victims
Sarajevo -- The Bosnian government has failed to deliver justice for thousands of women raped during the country's 1992-95 war, rights group Amnesty International said in a report last month.
"Amnesty International is concerned that the Bosnia-Hercegovina authorities have investigated and prosecuted only a very limited number of cases of war crimes of sexual violence," the report said.
More than 13 years after the war ended "many perpetrators (of wartime rapes) continue to enjoy impunity and often live in the same communities as their victims," it said.
The London-based organisation said Bosnian authorities had also failed to provide "meaningful measures of support and protection" for the survivors.
"This results in survivors’ continuous fears for their safety, which discourages them from appearing in the courtroom and testifying," it warned.
The are no reliable statistics on the number of women who were raped, but the Council of Europe estimated the figure around 20,000.
There were 18 war crimes cases involving rape before a UN tribunal in The Hague — the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) — and another 12 before the Court of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
The report also highlighted the lack of capacity in the country’s court system and an inadequate legal framework.
The state court and those at the level of Bosnia’s two semi-independent entities apply different criminal codes and the latter were not in line with international standards, the report said.
Bosnia was split after the war into the Serbs’ Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat federation, which are linked through a weak central government.
The war crimes trials sometimes take place at local courts "that lack basic equipment such as voice and image distortion" devices, Amnesty researcher Marek Marczynski told reporters while presenting the report here.
Rape victims are also discriminated against in terms of the state benefits for which they are eligible, according to Amnesty.
The maximum financial allowance available to them is only 70 percent of the amount available to a war veteran, the report said.
Only 500 women in the federation receive social benefits related to wartime rape while figures for the Republika Srpska were not known, Marczynski said.
"Psychological support that is needed so much is also not provided by the state," he said, stressing that non-governmental organisations alone provide such assistance.
"Many women are not able to work or seek employment because they are too traumatised."
Amnesty called on the Bosnian authorities to develop programmes and allocate resources for long-term support and protection of witnesses, and to employ investigators and prosecutors in lower-level courts with specialist experience in war crimes cases.
The war that pitted Bosnian Croats, Muslims and Serbs against each other claimed at least 100,000 lives, while more than two million people were left homeless.
Bosnian courts try low-profile war crimes cases, while the ICTY handles cases involving top officials from the war.
While lauding the ICTY for defining rape as a war crime, crime against humanity or genocide, Amnesty also criticised certain cases.
Amnesty is "concerned that … certain charges related to crimes of sexual violence were reduced in the indictment in order to expedite the prosecution cases."