SARAJEVO / GENEVA (5 November 2012) – United Nations human rights expert Rashida Manjoo said that heightened domestic violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina is linked in many cases to the legacy of the war, and women and men suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and other war-related mental health problems as well as unemployment, poverty or addiction.
“As the government strives to assess and address the impact that the war had on men and how to ensure they do not place women at a higher risk of domestic violence, it should also recognize the experiences that women themselves faced during the war, and their entitlement to justice, reparations, and information and assistance on the missing and the disappeared,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women at the end of her official mission* to the country.
“It is crucial for government authorities at all levels to recognize the existence of civilian women victims of rape and torture, regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds, and to ensure that they have equal access to remedies and services, regardless of their physical location within the country,” the expert stressed.
The Special Rapporteur urged the government “to ensure that the specific forms of sexual violence and the high prevalence rates experienced by women are adequately taken into consideration when implementing any initiatives to provide justice and effective remedies to victims,” while acknowledging the need to recognize the existence of male victims of war-time rape.
Ms. Manjoo welcomed official initiatives to adopt a Transitional Justice Strategy to ensure access to justice and reparation for all civilian victims of war, including survivors of sexual violence; a Law on the Rights of Victims of Torture and Civilian Victims of War, to ensure access for civilian victims of war to equal social benefits; and the development of the Programme for Improvement of the Status of Survivors of Conflict related Sexual Violence.
However, she noted, “a very relevant fear shared by interviewed survivors of war-time rape and torture is the fact that time continues to pass by with no justice being served. It is crucial to speed up efforts and achieve political solutions at State level,” the rights expert noted.”
In her view, transitional justice actions should ensure the public acknowledgment and memorialization of women victims, their access to compensation, including non-material damages, and their empowerment. “This is particularly important considering the country’s overall economic situation and how unemployment and poverty impact all people but women victims of violence in particular,” she underlined.
“I encourage the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to speedily finalize the adoption of these legislative and programmatic initiatives, and call on the authorities of both the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska to actively participate in their implementation,” Ms. Manjoo said.
The Special Rapporteur warned, nonetheless, that the success of such initiatives is hampered by the high levels of fragmentation in legislative standards and a lack of coherence among implementing authorities, which often results in the non-realization of women’s civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights, and the lack of effective redress for women who have been victims of past and present violence.
“The full realization of women’s rights is impaired by the structure of the country’s political institutions and the fact that no State level authority has the jurisdiction to ensure the adequate implementation of the international human rights obligations adopted by the State,” she warned.
During her eight-day mission, Ms. Manjoo met with representatives of State level authorities; entity and cantonal level authorities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina; entity and municipal level authorities of the Republika Srpska, as well as representatives of civil society organisations, UN agencies, and the donor community, including victims associations and service providers.
The Special Rapporteur will present a report with her final findings and recommendations the Human Rights Council in June 2013.
Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo also holds a part-time position as a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. Learn more, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/women/rapporteur/index.htm
(*) Read the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12742&LangID=E
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Check the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CEDAW/Pages/CEDAWIndex.aspx
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