More on Bosnia and Herzegovina

More on Bosnia and Herzegovina

The beginning of this year saw a continuing lack of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) although there have been some recent signs of positive change and cooperation. The release of the films at the ICTY documenting the human rights abuses during the massacre of Srebrenica has increased the cooperation of Serbian authorities somewhat, including, to a limited extent, the authorities in Republika Srbska – although cooperation still remains inadequate. That said, in November the government of the Republika Srbska apologized for the first time for human rights abuses committed during the fall of Srebrenica. The current President of Serbia, Boris Tadic, has “vowed” to cooperate with the ICTY in locating and extraditing Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic for their roles in the human rights abuses committed against Bosnian Muslims. As of June 2005, the two are still at large.

Human trafficking for the purposes of forced prostitution is still occurring in Bosnia and Herzegovina although there have been some steps to hold perpetrators accountable. In March, the State Court imposed prison sentences of up to nine years for four members of an organized criminal network for trafficking women and girls who were forced into prostitution in a chain of nightclubs in Prijedor. The accused were convicted of organized crime and human trafficking. In July, the State Court sentenced two men, including the owner of a nightclub near Sarajevo, to up to 15 months for offenses related to trafficking of women for forced prostitution.

In September and October of 2004, legislation was passed to regulate the functioning of the War Crimes Chamber, which will become operational within the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The domestic criminal justice system persistently failed to actively prosecute alleged war criminals due to a lack of cooperation between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that of the Republika Srbska. There is not a comprehensive witness protection program therefore victims, witnesses and courts remain without adequate protection from harassment, intimidation and threats.

Although over one million displaced people are said to have returned to post-war Bosnia, hundreds of thousands have not, or cannot return to their pre-war communities. Many who have returned face ethnic discrimination along with poor economic conditions and job prospects; there have been cases of ethnically motivated violence.

Bosnian authorities illegally transferred six men of Algerian origin to US authorities under the auspices of the “War on Terror.” Upon arriving in US custody they were subsequently detained in Guantánamo Bay where they remain. Their case remains an open action file.