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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Make reparations for wartime rape

The full extent of the sexual violence during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina that shattered the lives of thousands of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights across the country has still to be recognised by the Republika Srpska authorities, Amnesty International said in a briefing paper published today.

When everyone is silent: Reparation for survivors of wartime rape in Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina,
gives a snapshot of the situation today of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights survivors of wartime rape and is part of the organisation’s on-going project to get justice and reparation for victims.

Since the start of the war, Amnesty has collected numerous testimonies of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who were subjected to torture, including often systematic and repeated rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy and other crimes of sexual violence.

John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, said:

“The silence surrounding the wartime rape of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Republika Srpska, an internationally recognised crime under international law, is deafening. Both the authorities and the media are ignoring the suffering of part of the population.

“Almost 20 years after the end of the conflict, the cruel failure to ensure justice for survivors of wartime sexual violence must at last be brought out of the shadows if the survivors themselves are to rebuild their lives and their families, communities and societies are to heal.

“Many of the survivors still struggle with the physical, emotional and social consequences of the crimes committed against them. Justice for survivors requires both the prosecution of perpetrators and the acknowledgement of – and resolve to redress – the continuing consequences of their abuse. The Republika Srpska authorities must move to meet these needs and work on de-stigmatising wartime rape, so that survivors can be given the opportunity to speak out.”

The authorities of Republika Srpska have never made a meaningful attempt to collect data on this population, to understand and quantify their problems, or to develop policies that would address their specific needs nor have they tried to stimulate public discussion and break the silence surrounding the crimes committed against these Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights during the war.  

Vinko Lale, president of the local association of camp inmates told Amnesty:  


“Often, out of fear of stigma, these Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights don’t want to say they were raped, so they just say that they went through different types of torture. Maybe if they knew that breaking the silence would improve their lives, they would feel able to speak out.”

As a result of rape and other war-related human rights abuses, many survivors have developed post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological syndromes. They feel insecurity, shame, self-blame, depression, fragmented memories, lack of concentration, nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety or mistrust of other people.

John Dalhuisen said:

“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. This will help create an atmosphere where public debate on this issue will thrive and survivors will feel confident to come forward, tell their stories and demand justice.

“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.”

The current Republika Srpska Law on the Protection of Civilian Victims of War, guarantees special measures of social protection to people who suffered at least 60 per cent damage to their bodies as a result of torture, assault, rape, or other crimes committed in the course of the conflict, provided applications were submitted before 2007.


However, this law has excluded a great many survivors of sexual violence both because of the time limit and also because it fails to take into account psychological harm. Benefits provided under this law do not extend to psychological care.

John Dalhuisen concluded:

“In order to provide reparation to survivors of wartime rape, the Republika Srpska authorities must amend the Law on the Civilian Victims of War in two fundamental ways: firstly, by creating a separate category of survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence which does not impose a percentage of bodily damage as the only criteria for granting the status;  and secondly, by re-opening the applications procedure.”

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