Bosnia and Herzegovina must uphold the rights of a war rape survivor
Sarajevo, 27 January 2017 – Today, the NGO TRIAL International submits a complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on behalf of a war rape survivor. In the submission, TRIAL International demands the prosecution and adequate punishment of those responsible for the crime, the formal recognition of the survivor as a civilian victim of war and reparation measures.
When she was raped in a Bosnian village in 1995, the victim immediately reported her rape to the police, and then again in 2009 to the BiH Prosecutor’s Office. In addition, numerous letters were sent to judicial and police institutions demanding the prosecution of the perpetrators. To this day, however, no one has been identified, let alone punished for the crime. TRIAL International is now bringing the case before the UN so that the survivor can finally uphold her rights.
“The state of BiH has to acknowledge its responsibility for the violation of the rights of the applicant and issue an official apology. Furthermore, it has to take an array of measures in order to rectify this violation, such as criminal prosecution of those responsible for this crime,” stated Adrijana Hanušić Bećirović, Senior Legal Adviser at TRIAL International.
The many violations of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, described in TRIAL’s submission, reflect the systematic failure of the State of BiH to protect the rights of wartime sexual violence survivors.
Victims’ way to justice is long and arduous
Many other wartime rape survivors are still waiting for justice to be done. Troublingly, laws on remuneration for wartime victims treat differently certain survivors based on their place of residence; the survivor in the CEDAW case is one such individual. In addition to the fact that she has been denied justice, she has been deprived of her right to monthly remuneration and other forms of social protection.
To ensure that such violations will not be repeated, TRIAL International calls on BiH to amend existing legislation so that wartime sexual violence survivors have equal access to social protection and reparative measures, regardless of where they live. This particular demand is targeted at Republika Srpska (RS), which must change its laws to create a special social protection category for survivors of sexual violence. In addition, RS must abolish restrictive time limits for submitting requests for damages and other forms of redress.
TRIAL’s complaint to CEDAW also refers to the need to adopt measures to further improve the status of war rape survivors, such as the adoption of the Strategy on Transitional Justice, the Programme for improvement of the status of survivors of conflict related sexual violence, and the Law on the Rights of Torture Victims.
Improving victims’ information about on-going prosecutions and investigations, and if and when survivors can expect trials, is paramount. As part of this effort, judicial and law enforcement personnel need to be fully aware of this, and to act accordingly. Bosnia and Herzegovina has to uphold to the highest international obligations, by committing itself to ensuring that justice is done and wartime survivors’ rights are fully upheld.