Bosnia and Herzegovina

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2014/181) issued on 13 March 2014.

 

My Special Representative conducted a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2013, to review ongoing efforts by national authorities and civil society at all levels to address conflict-related sexual violence. It was found that serious challenges remain in terms of service provision and access to justice for an estimated 20,000 survivors of sexual violence crimes committed during the conflict that took place from 1992 to 1995. Despite recognition of the widespread and systematic use of sexual violence during the war, the stigma remains and many survivors are reluctant to come forward. This is partly due to the fact that many of the alleged perpetrators are in positions of influence within State institutions such as the police, as well as in the political sphere. Constitutional barriers also remain, resulting in the fragmentation of the Government’s prevention and response efforts. This is compounded by an apparent lack of political will on the part of the authorities at different levels. In terms of national prosecutions of war crimes, of an estimated 200 cases processed by the State since the end of the conflict, to date only 29 cases involving charges of sexual violence have led to sentencing.

 

There is a lack of comprehensive services for survivors, with non-governmental organizations in this area offering mainly psycho-social support, with limited geographical coverage. At the end of 2013, initiatives to establish a system of referral for comprehensive services were at an early stage. Bosnia and Herzegovina is in the process of developing a second action plan for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), for 2014-2017, with important provisions for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. Implementing the draft programme of assistance to women victims of wartime rape, sexual violence and torture (2013-2016) would also be beneficial. In some areas, there have been some training initiatives for key victim support institutions and organizations that have led to improved assistance to survivors and witnesses before, during and after criminal prosecutions. Similar training for judges and prosecutors is needed. Despite the fact that hundreds of Bosnian men are believed to have been victims of wartime rapes and sexual abuse, only three non-governmental organizations with limited resources provide dedicated psychological services to male survivors and the status of male survivors has not been properly regulated under the law. Moreover, the paucity of data on the number of children born as a result of rape requires urgent attention by service providers and researchers in order for the needs of these young people to be addressed.

 

Recommendation

I urge the Government to prioritize the development and passage of harmonized legislation and policies in all relevant national institutions to facilitate cooperation, the effective exchange of information and the establishment of referral mechanisms to ensure comprehensive and multisectoral services for survivors of sexual violence. I encourage the Government to draw on the expertise of the United Nations and civil society in that regard.