By Nevena Šarenac – Sarajevo
The Special Representative of the General Secretary of the UN for issues of sexual violence during the war Zainab Hawa Bangura, who is on a four day visit to BIH, announced today in Sarajevo that the BiH Council of Ministers has to approve a program for victims of sexual violence and torture and it operates in accordance with the that program.
“In BiH there is no political will for crimes of sexual violence to be recognized as such and to finally start prosecuting those who committed the crime. There is no way to solve this problem without political will. Therefore, the state government should approve a program for victims of sexual violence and torture. This program is in the BiH Council of Ministers, and we wish to finish this process as soon as possible and for it to act in accordance with this program’’, said Bangura. She added that at the level of BiH a law has to be adopted where protection and reparations are organized according to the same principles so that victims would be treated the same way throughout all of BiH.
She thinks that this would contribute to linking the victims and the process of reconciliation and co-existence.
“This country should establish a commission for reconciliation when it comes to war crimes, including sexual violence during the war. The past has to be confronted, and the sexual violence that occurred. If this does not happen, then the country cannot go forward. The process of healing wounds of this country will not begin’’, said Bangura.
She said that during her visit to BiH she spoke with representatives of international organizations, state and entity governments, courts and prosecutors’ offices, non-profit organizations, associations, and survivors of such crimes.
She noted that in BiH, a country in the heart of Europe, there is not enough protection for victims and witnesses, especially at the lower level because courts do not have the capacity to ensure justice and the protection of witnesses and victims. Victims do not have access to services or it is hard to reach.
She also noticed that the stigmatization of victims of sexual violence is also present. She said that sexual violence is a crime not only against people, but also against individuals, against their families and the community. She said that during the war, according to unofficial information, between 20,000-50,000 women were sexually abused during the war, and the number of prosecutions of these crimes is unacceptable.
Bangura said that her impressions from BiH will be summarized in a report and will be presented to the General Secretary and the UN Security Council at a meeting scheduled for 24 June in New York. Together with UNDP and other bodies she will work on further strategies and finding a solution.
A representative of the United Kingdom, which is also a presiding country of the G8, will lead the meeting of the UN Security Council, and Bangura notes that BiH will be on the top of her list of priorities during her speech to the UN Security Council.
The British Ambassador to BiH Nigel Casey said on this occasion today that the G8 Chairmanship would be used to place this issue as a priority of the international community.
He specified that the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of countries from the G8 Group adopted earlier a historical declaration where the crime of sexual violence during the war was defined for the first time as a violation of the Geneva Convention.