Pristina, March 10, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Elton Tota
High authorities in Kosovo say that there are around 20 thousand women in Kosovo who have been raped by Serb forces during the last war. Being a very delicate issue, it has been rarely addressed by authorities and public opinion for the past 15 years.
President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga has decreed the appointment of the National Committee for the survivors of sexual violence during the war (photo).
The objective of this committee is to coordinate the activities of institutions and agencies in order to rehabilitate survivors of sexual violence during the last war in Kosovo.
The committee will have a limited mandate and its work will contribute toward international documents and strategies that address this type of violence.
“The sufferings of the war and the consequences of the war continue to hurt us all today. Without any doubt, this pain is even greater for all those men and women the families of whom were victims of cruel tortures”, declared president Jahjaga.
According to her, Kosovo has opened the chapter of peace, building a society which believes in human rights and protects them.
“Therefore, 15 years later, institutions of Kosovo have opened an issue which is considered to be the most painful one of the last war, sexual violence”.
“The serious consequences of this instrument of war which was used to threaten the dignity of the victims, to awake the feeling of fear and oppression, to encourage displacement and to strip an entire society of its human values, continue to ruin the life of the victims and their relatives”, said the president.
According to her, 15 years after the end of the war, the topic of the victims of sexual violence continues to remain a taboo to be debated in the public opinion.
“The survivors of sexual violence continue to suffer today as a result of a grave psychological, social and economic situation, therefore they need the support of institutions and society to face a grave reality, for which they are not to blame”, declared she.
According to Jahjaga, Kosovo still doesn’t have an accurate number of victims of sexual violence during the war, but this number is estimated to be 20 thousand. “It’s not important what this number is, because even if it’s one victim, she demands our attention”, said she.
This committee notes that the legal status of this category is yet to be recognized, while up until now, a culture of impunity of the responsible people for these crimes has dominated.
Therefore, the Committee not only aims to rehabilitate the victims of sexual violence, but also to take all the necessary measures in order to prevent this crime.
According to the president, the repetition of such crimes can only be stopped when there’s sufficient institutional attention and when the responsible people for these crimes will be brought to justice and tried for their crimes.
“We cannot change their past, but we can make sure that their future is not shaped by this bitter past, in order for the future of their families, of their children, not to be defined by a crime unjustly committed against them”, said president Jahjaga.
Jahjaga demanded for the curtain of stigma fallen upon the victims of violence to be lifted. “Let us break silence that has dominated and pass the responsibility onto the perpetrators of these crimes”.
The speaker of parliament, Jakup Krasniqi says that the war of the people of Kosovo caused extraordinary losses in people, economy, cultural heritage and genocide. Meanwhile, according to him, the sexual violence exerted by Serb military forces against women and girls in Kosovo consists on the most shameful act taken place in the civilized world.
“In essence, this act consists on a flagrant breach of human rights and as such, it’s a crime against humanity, being sanctioned as such by international conventions”, declared Krasniqi.
The speaker of parliament demanded for the victims of sexual violence to be compensated by the state. “It’s necessary for institutions to offer financial support for the treatment of gender issues in Kosovo and especially for the survivors of sexual violence during the war”, said he.
The issue of Kosovar women who were sexually abused by Serb forces in 1999 has also been addressed two years ago in the International Summit of Women, in October 2012. At that time, a resolution was approved which was then sent to parliament. The resolution which was called “Principles of Pristina”, demanded the rehabilitation, reintegration and fight against social stigmatization of the war victims, by recognizing their legal status as civilian victims, publicly acknowledging their experiences and by demanding for their perpetrators to be criminally tried.
According to the resolution, these demands are closely linked to the progress of society after the war and consolidation of peace with a social and institutional response toward the most affected categories by the war.
The return of debate in Kosovo comes at a time when the entire international attention has returned toward this category of civilian war victims.
UK Foreign Secretary, Mr. William Hague has launched an incentive for the prevention of sexual violence in conflicts. Kosovo has also benefited from this incentive. /ibna/