BiH: ensure compensation claims enforcement, say experts
When victims obtain compensation orders after a long and arduous procedure, has their ordeal come to an end? Not always, as enforcement remains uneven throughout BiH.
TRIAL International has provided free legal aid to several victims in criminal proceedings, all resulting in the awarding of compensation. But despite these verdicts, victims have yet to receive their them.
“In parallel to building up the practice of compensation awards in criminal proceedings, the challenge was to get the compensation effectively paid” explains Adrijana Hanusic Becirovic, TRIAL’s Senior Legal Advisor for BiH.
While Bosnian legislature is vague on compensation enforcement, a whole range of international and European legal sources offer guidance – such as the European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crime and the United Nations Convention against Torture. More importantly, these texts are also binding for BiH, obliging its authorities to ensure effective compensation for wartime victims.
Among these guarantees is the State’s role when the perpetrators do not have the means to compensate the victim themselves.
“European and international law require Bosnia and Herzegovina to establish national mechanisms in case the perpetrators are unable or unwilling to fulfil their obligations”, says Adrijana Hanusic Becirovic. “This would resolve the issue of compensations that have been awarded but never actually paid.”
There is also a symbolic dimension to the State stepping in. As one survivor put it: “Both the perpetrators and the entity are responsible. The State did not prevent crimes, and the perpetrators committed the crimes”.
Towards better enforcement mechanisms
In its latest publication, TRIAL analyzes BiH’s international obligations and provides recommendations on how it can most effectively enforce compensation awards. Drawing from examples in other countries, it offers practical solutions for their implementation.
“We hope that this publication will pave the way to legislative change in BiH”, concludes Selma Korjenic, Head of TRIAL’s BiH program. “Victims awaiting compensation have fought for so long, they deserve to receive compensation without having to fight for it.”