Bosnia and Herzegovina: More than two decades since the end of the armed conflict, authorities continue to fail survivors of sexual violence
AI Index: EUR 63/5866/2017 13 March 2017
Ahead of the United Nations Human Rights Committee review of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) third periodic report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Amnesty International has presented a submission to the Committee, highlighting concerns in relation to human rights violations linked to the legacy of the 1992 – 1995 armed conflict in BiH. Amnesty International considers deeply worrying the continuing failure of Bosnian authorities to adopt and implement legal and policy framework in order to ensure full and effective access to justice, truth and reparation for victims of the 1990s armed conflicts, and in particular survivors of wartime sexual violence .
Authorities in BiH have achieved little progress in tackling systemic obstacles that 22 years after the end of war still prevent survivors from fully realising their rights. Persistent inability and unwillingness of political elites to agree on the adoption of crucial legislation and measures to provide survivors with status and reparation and take steps to harmonise disability benefits available to civilian victims of war living in different parts of the country, continue to stand in the way of justice and frustrate survivors’ efforts to rebuild their lives. Despite the initiative of some BiH authorities, in particular Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees and Ministry of Justice at the state level, to develop the recommended legal and policy framework in recent years, the country has overall failed to fully meet its international obligations and adopt measures to enable full access to justice, truth and reparation and ensure successful social integration of survivors.
Although prepared earlier, Law on Rights of Victims of Torture, National Strategy for Transitional Justice and the Programme for Victims of Sexual Violence in Conflict still lack political support for adoption. In the absence of a comprehensive state-wide framework, survivors and their families continue to access their rights at the level of entities, cantons and Brcko District, often facing discrimination based on their place of residence, numerous legal and administrative barriers and finally relying on vastly varying disability packages.
Previous attempts to pass a state-wide law on the rights of victims of torture have failed due to lack of required political support, and Republika Srpska government refuses to participate in the current effort of the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees to agree to a new draft through an inter-resource working group. Instead, RS Ministry of Labour and Veterans’ Affairs is developing an entity draft law on victims of wartime torture. While the law intends to address the status and benefits available to survivors, Amnesty International is concerned that some of the proposed solutions on eligibility remain overly restrictive and may exclude many survivors and their families.