Rape as a weapon of war in Bosnia – the silence is still deafening
"I’ve just been talking to brave men and women who endured appalling sexual violence during the war in Bosnia, and to the organisations that support them here in Sarajevo.
I’ve heard some very harrowing accounts of their experiences during their war, and the challenges they still face today. Many are still fighting for justice and compensation and have trouble obtaining the social and psychological support they need.”
This could have been a quote from our Amnesty researcher, and the author of a new briefing we put out today: When everyone is silent: Reparation for survivors of wartime rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It isn’t though, it’s a quote from William Hague.
Five months ago, the Foreign Secretary launched a new UK initiative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict at a screening of Angelina Jolie’s film In the Land of Blood and Honey (see the clips used in our vid, above), which focuses on the horrors people endured during the conflict. The initiative is a noble endeavour, that sets out to tackle the use of rape as a weapon of war Hague said:
“In the same way that the world came together to abolish the slave trade hundreds of years ago or to ban landmines and cluster munitions in our lifetime, so we must seize a moment to change our world for the better by confronting the use of rape as a weapon of war."
A laudable ambition and it is commendable that Hague spoke to rape survivors in Bosnia in order to inform his proposals. But whilst Hague spoke of contemporaneous conflicts where sexual violence was being used as a weapon, such as in Syria, there are women who first gave evidence to prosecutors about the fact that they were raped in 1995 in Bosnia, and who are yet to get their day in court.
Of hundreds of thousands of suspected cases of rape during the conflict in Bosnia, to date, there have been fewer than 40 prosecutions. This is despite the fact that women have come forward defying the stigma of telling about their ordeal, and despite the fact that many of them were able to identify their attackers. Women ranging from 14 years old to their late 60s at the time of their attack.
“The authorities of Republika Srpska must for a start recognise, loud and clear, that rape and other forms of sexual violence were committed during the war.The authorities must identify the number of survivors of wartime rape and look into their needs today. They must ensure that the public health system is well-equipped to provide the survivors with the necessary medical and psychological care.”
That’s a quote from John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty , and not yet from the Republika Srpska authorities. It’s high time his words were heeded.
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