Annual Report: Bosnia and Herzegovina 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Bosnia and Herzegovina 2013

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There were 1,271 cases reviewed in the process, 592 (47%) of which were transferred to the entity Prosecutors’ Offices, and 679 (53%) were pending before the State Prosecutor’s Office. This represented a positive development as the significant delay in establishing the exact number of criminal case files was holding up the implementation of the Strategy. The possibility of parallel investigations and prosecutions at state and entity levels was also greatly reduced.

However, around half of these case files had already been pending in entity Prosecutors’ Offices for many years prior to the review and transfer process. The fact that an additional 120 case files were transferred to the entity Prosecutors’ Offices did not automatically accelerate the investigations.

The War Crimes Chamber of the State Court of BiH continued to play a central role in prosecuting crimes under international law. However, verbal attacks on this and other judicial institutions dedicated to investigating and prosecuting those crimes, along with the denial of crimes under international law – such as the genocide in Srebrenica in July 1995 – by high-ranking politicians, undermined the state’s efforts to prosecute them. In February, a coalition party from RS filed a motion to abolish the State Court of BiH and the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH. The draft proposals were rejected by the BiH Parliament, but politicians continued to make public declarations undermining the work of the state judicial institutions.

Despite calls from various international human rights treaty bodies for the BiH authorities to amend its legislation to include a definition of sexual violence in line with international standards and jurisprudence, the 2003 Criminal Code was not changed. This Code required that the victim be subjected to force or threat of immediate attack on his or her life or body. It still did not take into account the circumstances of armed conflict, which could create a coercive context that would vitiate consent to sexual intercourse.

Moreover, the entity courts continued to apply the Criminal Code of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in prosecuting crimes committed during the conflict. As noted in the concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee in November, this Code had serious gaps, including the absence of a definition of crimes against humanity and command responsibility.

Although witness support services at the state level were available, adequate witness support and protection measures in cases tried in entity courts were absent. This continued, despite the fact that half of all pending war crimes cases were due to be heard at this level.

The authorities failed to provide a comprehensive programme of reparations for victims of crimes under international law.

Women’s rights

Survivors of war crimes of sexual violence

Between its creation in 2005 and the end of 2012, the State Court of BiH had issued final decisions in 29 cases involving crimes of sexual violence committed during the 1992-1995 war. Two additional cases were pending appeal. There were no reliable figures available of the total number of allegations of rape and other forms of wartime sexual violence under investigation at the state and entity level.

The state failed to adopt the draft Law on the Rights of Victims of Torture and Civilian War Victims, the Strategy on Transitional Justice, and the Programme for Victims of Sexual Violence in Conflict, all of which would have improved the ability of survivors of sexual violence to realize their right to reparation.

Many survivors continued to be denied their right to reparation and were stigmatized as rape victims. Female survivors were denied access to adequate health care services even when they suffered from medical conditions developed as a result of rape. Only a few of those who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorders were able to secure psychological assistance.