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Is Bosnia turning a deaf ear to UN recommendations?

12.02.2021

More than a year after the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) called on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to compensate and issue an official apology to the victim of a rape during the war, no measures of reparation have yet been implemented. As TRIAL International’s follow-up report submitted to the Committee in January 2021 shows, State inaction in this particular case is problematic as it constitutes a violation of several international treaties to which BiH is a signatory. This case is unfortunately not unique. And the first to suffer are the survivors, who often do not obtain justice during their lifetime.

Implementing the CAT decision would set a significant precedent for better and more responsible treatment of victims of war crimes. ©Will Baxter/ TRIAL International

As a reminder, in August 2019, the CAT had concluded that Bosnia and Herzegovina failed in its obligations towards Ms. A., who had been raped in 1993. The Committee based its decision on the fact that although the perpetrator was convicted and ordered to compensate the victim, no payment was made. In this case, like in others, the State did not follow up, judging that the perpetrator did not have the means to pay his debt. Consequently, the CAT concluded that the survivor was denied an effective and enforceable right to adequate and fair compensation, as well as rehabilitation.

Implementing the CAT decision would set a significant precedent for better and more responsible treatment of victims of war crimes. Instead, BiH seems bogged down in a slow process of implementation, in which old habits – such as non-compliance with the decisions of international bodies – die hard.

There are of course certain legal, administrative and financial obstacles due to the complex decision-making process in BiH that may explain the State’s delay in taking action. Especially given the fact that some of the obligations required by the UN CAT entail a strategic approach that cannot be done overnight. Nevertheless, victims of war crimes often depend only on civil society organizations. It is time for the State to play a greater role in such matters. “Presenting an official public apology is easy. It is therefore the bare minimum that Bosnia and Herzegovina must do for this survivor, as soon as possible”, stated Lamija Tiro, legal advisor for TRIAL International in Sarajevo.

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