A quarter of a century since the advent of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, many survivors of rape and sexual slavery continue to suffer stigma, trauma and socioeconomic exclusion. Conflict-related sexual violence has left a profound imprint on survivors and society alike. Owing to the absence of adequate support, the passage of time has compounded, rather than alleviated, their plight. There is still no comprehensive compensation scheme, and survivors are only eligible for a disability pension, which is a form of welfare rather than reparation. The burden of service delivery is borne primarily by non-governmental organizations, rather than the State, a lack of official redress that has served to reinforce stigma by implying that sexual violence is a private matter, rather than a social problem that requires a sustained public sector response. Because entitlements vary across the entities, access to benefits remains uneven, inhibiting the return of displaced survivors to their areas of origin.
The Government and the United Nations continue to implement a joint programme on seeking care, support and justice for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, which aims at addressing the legacy of those crimes through access to justice, health care and psychosocial support, economic empowerment and efforts to offset stigma and by strengthening the capacity of service providers. In 2017, 21 additional survivors of conflict-related sexual violence were granted official status as civilian victims of war, following determinations made by new commissions on status recognition. The pace of justice at the national level has accelerated in recent years; between 2004 and 2017, 116 cases of conflict-related sexual violence were adjudicated, 58 cases opened and 128 investigated, although those figures may be incomplete, given that cases against men tend to be qualified as inhumane treatment rather than sexual violence. Concerted efforts are needed to safeguard victims and witnesses from intimidation in connection with war crimes trials. In 2017, five women who testified as witnesses received threats. With regard to stigma prevention, on 19 June, to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Inter-religious Council, which comprises leaders of the Serbian Orthodox, Islamic, Jewish and Catholic communities, issued an interfaith declaration denouncing the stigmatization of survivors of sexual violence and calling for enhanced efforts to elevate their social status. On 4 October, Bosnia and Herzegovina became the first country to adopt a national plan to alleviate stigma. My Special Representative visited Sarajevo to participate in its launch, alongside government officials, survivors and children (who are now adults) who had been conceived as a result of rape. Following her visit, the United Nations initiated new research into the plight of children conceived through rape in wartime, to inform future programming.
I urge the authorities to uphold the right of survivors to reparations, including services, housing and education, to strengthen safeguards for victims and witnesses participating in war crimes trials and to foster social acceptance of those who were conceived as a result of rape in wartime.