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Mixed Justice for Bosnian Rape Victims

A Bosnian court decision sets an important precedent for civilian victims of the 1990s wars.

12 April 2018

Bosnia’s Constitutional Court last month scrapped court fees issued to the victims of rape during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war. Many war-time rape victims were previously ordered to pay such fines after they saw their reparation claims rejected.


The Constitutional Court’s decision was praised by right lawyers and a victims association, Reuters reports.


A court in the Republika Srpska entity ordered one woman to pay 3,000 Bosnian marks ($1,900) in court fees. The Constitutional Court said that the fees constituted a “disproportional and unreasonable burden” for the victims.


“This [ruling] is very significant for all former camp detainees/torture victims who have filed reparation lawsuits … and should represent a turning point for Bosnia-Herzegovina institutions towards the war torture victims,” Bosnia’s war prisoner association wrote in a statement, as cited by Reuters.


The town of Visegrad was a site of ethnic cleansing during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. Photo via Cornelius Bechtler/Wikimedia Commons.


The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina recognized sexual assault as a war crime in 2006 and now compensates victims with a monthly 500 mark payment. The other entity, Republika Srpska, does not recognize rape as a war crime, the Japanese daily Mainichi says.


The Republika Srpska legislature has thus far blocked attempts to create nationwide laws on war victims.


In a series of articles, Mainichi examines the lingering trauma of wartime rape on Bosnian women.


The town of Visegrad, now located in Republika Srpska, was the center of thorough ethnic cleansing early in the war, as it switched from having a Bosniak to a Serb majority, the daily writes. An estimated 3,000 Bosniaks were killed there. Bosniak rape victims have long claimed that some 200 women were held and raped in a local hotel, but some locals asked for comments said they knew nothing of those events.



  • According to data from war crimes courts and victim associations, around 20,000 people were victims of sexual violence during the war, most of whom were Muslim Bosniak women, Reuters says.


  • Last month, Bosnian war veterans demanded higher social benefits from the government. They protested for several days and blocked roads across the country. However, the government said it could not meet their demands because of budget constraints.


  • The UN court in The Hague yesterday partially overturned the acquittal of former Serbian nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj on war crimes charges. However, the court let stand his 2016 acquittal of charges of inciting war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia, Balkan Insight reports. The court sentenced Seselj to 10 years, although he will not serve prison time on the basis of the 11 years he spent in pre-trial custody before his release on health grounds in 2014.

Compiled by Wasse Jonkhans

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