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Committee against Torture considers report of Bosnia and Herzegovina

GENEVA (13 November 2017) - The Committee against Torture this afternoon completed its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Bosnia and Herzegovina on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Ranko Debevec, President of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, presented the report and measures taken to implement the Committee’s concluding observations of November 2010.  The definition of torture had been brought in line with the Convention, the definition of the war crime of sexual violence had been aligned with international standards, and the Law on Asylum had been adopted and entered into force on 27 February 2016.  Bosnia and Herzegovina had ratified in 2012 the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, and bearing in mind all the consequences of the war that had ended more than 20 years ago, the Government had made it clear that it was strongly committed to paying special attention to issues concerning all missing persons, and had signed an interstate agreement on the search for missing persons with Serbia.  Similar agreements were being prepared with Montenegro and Croatia.  Activities on the harmonization of the Law on Ombudsman for Human Rights with the Paris Principles had continued and a working group for drafting amendments to the State War Crimes Strategy had been set up to speed up its implementation. 

In the discussion, Committee Experts asked about measures to address and prevent torture and ill-treatment by the police in the Republika Srpska, ensure fundamental legal safeguards in law and practice throughout the country, and establish a truly independent body to process complaints against the police.  The delegation was asked about initiatives to harmonize the definition of torture across all entities in the country, set up the national torture prevention mechanism, and to ensure that the definition of the war crime of sexual violence was brought in line with international standards in the Republika Srpska and the Brèko District.  There were major shortcomings in the processing of war crimes at the State level, which included the lack of experience by State war crime prosecutors, inadequate management of war crime cases, parallel prosecutions by the State and entity prosecutors, inconsistency in the legal characterization of crimes, and low-quality indictments.  Similar problems had been reported when it came to the investigation of the war-related crime of sexual violence.  Prison conditions were generally considered sub-standard and sometimes life threatening, in particular in the Sarajevo prison where prisoners endured the worst conditions in the entire prison system.  Experts raised concern about insufficient alternative measures to detention and rehabilitation for children in conflict with the law, with instances of children being detained together with adults, lack of access to education, and extended pre-trial detention. 

In concluding remarks, Saliha Djuderija, Assistant Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thanked the Committee Experts for the exchange of views about the situation in the country.

Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson and Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, encouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina to submit to the Committee a plan for the implementation of concluding observations which would be issued at the end of the session.

The delegation of Bosnia and Herzegovina included representatives of the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Security, Ministry of the Interior, Prosecutor’s Office, High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, and the Permanent Mission of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 14 November, at 10 a.m., to consider the combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of Italy (CAT/C/ITA/5-6). 

Report

The sixth periodic report of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be read here: CAT/C/BIH/6.

Presentation of the Report

RANKO DEBEVEC, President of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, presented the measures taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina in response to the concluding observations of the Committee against Torture issued in November 2010 regarding the harmonization of the definition of sexual violence with international standards, rapid and effective investigation of all war crimes, information about activities on the drafting of the Law on the Rights of Victims of Torture, ensuring the full independence of the Missing Persons Institute, and progress in the procedure of ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.  With regard to measures taken to harmonize the legal definition of torture in State-level and entity-level laws and for the inclusion of torture crimes in domestic legislation, in 2015 the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina had adopted the Law on Amendments to the Criminal Code, which contained an amendment to article 190 whereby the definition of torture had been brought in line with the Convention.  The amendments had also aligned the definition of the war crime of sexual violence with international standards, as well as provisions relating to trafficking in human beings.  In order to harmonize national legislation with the European Union legislation in the field of asylum, Bosnia and Herzegovina had adopted the Law on Asylum, which had entered into force on 27 February 2016.  The Government had also adopted a strategy in the area of migration and asylum for 2016-2020. 

In the beginning of 2012, Bosnia and Herzegovina had ratified the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, and bearing in mind all the consequences of the war that had ended more than 20 years ago, the Government had made it clear that it was strongly committed to paying special attention to issues concerning all missing persons.  The Council of Ministers had also taken steps to enhance regional cooperation in the search for and the identification of missing persons.  Namely, it had signed an interstate agreement on the search for missing persons with Serbia, and it was preparing similar agreements with Montenegro and Croatia.  Bosnia and Herzegovina had continued activities on the harmonization of the Law on Ombudsman for Human Rights with the Paris Principles in order to ensure its financial independence and mandate.  The Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination had been amended in 2014 and under that law all public authorities had a duty to fight discrimination, refrain from it and to remove all obstacles that could directly or indirectly result in discrimination.  Since all the goals set by the State War Crimes Strategy had not been implemented within deadlines, the Council of Ministers had established a working group for drafting amendments to the State War Crimes Strategy.  Turning to the issue of violence against children and corporal punishment, Mr. Debevec reminded that in October 2016 a proposal had been made to introduce an explicit ban on any physical punishment of children in all settings.  In cooperation with UNICEF, seminars had been organized on the topic of professional development of all stakeholders in charge of the implementation of the Law on Protection and Treatment of Children and Juveniles in Criminal Proceedings.  On 1 May 2017, the Council of Europe had started a new project entitled “Supporting Reintegration of Violent and Extremist Prisoners in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” aimed at enabling prison staff to work with violent and extremist prisoners.   

Questions by Country Co-Rapporteurs

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Country Co-Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, raised the issue of torture and ill-treatment by the police in the Republika Srpska, such as slaps, kicks and punches, the use of bats, electric shock devices, handcuffing in stretched positions for hours, mock executions, and use of plastic bags.   What had the State party done to end such practices?  What did the Government intend to do to ensure fundamental legal safeguards in law and practice, namely access to a lawyer and to independent medical examination?  Did the Government have any plans to establish a truly independent body to process complaints against the police?  What was the status of introducing audio-video recording of police interrogations and ensuring that a lawyer was present throughout the interrogation? 

Were there any initiatives to harmonize the definition of torture across all entities in the country?  Mr. Modvig commended the State party for having harmonized the definition of the war crime of sexual violence.  However, the definition had still not been brought in line with international standards in the Republika Srpska and the Brcko District?  Were medical doctors reporting to prison authorities and where were they expected to report possible torture cases?  How many cases had been reported and with what results? 

There were reports that the Ombudsman Office had experienced considerable budget cuts, that its annual report was not discussed by relevant Government bodies, and that it was not allowed to interact with regional and international counterparts.  Had the State party taken measures to bring it into line with international standards? 

Mr. Modvig noted that the Department for the Protection of Detained/Imprisoned Persons had only two employees.  Did the State party believe that there was a reasonable relationship between the tasks assigned and the resources allocated to that unit?

Furthermore, the national torture prevention mechanism had not been established.  Why had there been a protracted delay in establishing that mechanism?  What obstacles was the State party facing to ensure that it was implemented? 

As for the independence of the judiciary, what steps had the State party taken to address the process of selection, appointment and dismissal of judges and prosecutors? 

Turning to refugees and asylum seekers, Mr. Modvig inquired whether a review had been carried out in the Law on Amendments to the Law on Movement and Stay of Aliens and Asylum to ensure that it complied with European Union legislation.  No refugee status had been granted in 2015: why was there such a low acceptance rate?  What was the overall number of persons granted asylum and humanitarian protection?  How many persons had been returned, extradited or expelled since the State party’s last report? 
Did the State party have any plans to ensure a better implementation of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers?  What was its policy for detaining refugees and migrants? 

What forms of legal aid were available to asylum seekers?  What training did judges and asylum officials receive to ensure that refoulement was not being committed?  What steps had been taken to put an end to the practice of prolonged detention and to ensure a fair and efficient asylum procedure? 

Turning to cases of extradition, Mr. Modvig inquired about diplomatic assurances that were guaranteed by the country of return.  Had the State party checked whether they had been upheld?  Had any other cases of refoulement, extradition or expulsion occurred since the previous report? 

ANA RACU, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, welcomed the introduction of specialized training for police officers and judicial staff.  It was regrettable that the current curricula did not include the Istanbul Protocol, and that there was no systematic assessment of the specialized training.  Apparently, there was overreliance on international donors’ support in capacity-building.  None of the training sessions contained methods of identifying psychological and physical consequences of torture.  How many judges and prosecutors had received proper training on European jurisprudence in the field?  Had the State party provided relevant training on torture to the military and security officers?

With respect to the execution of criminal sentences, one of the biggest problems was the fact that the existing legislation was deployed at three levels of the Government.  Were there any initiatives to address that problem? 

Prison conditions were generally considered sub-standard and sometimes life threatening, in particular in the Sarajevo prison where prisoners endured the worst conditions in the entire prison system.  What steps had been taken to improve the quality of life of prisoners in the Sarajevo prison, including overcrowding?  In the Banja Luka and Foca prisons, conditions were better due to refurbishing, whereas prison conditions in Mostar, Zenica and Bijeljina needed to be improved. 

The interaction of prisoners and the prison staff was one of the core elements of the Convention.  There were reports of the marshal approach to running prisons.  The majority of prisoners stated that they had been treated correctly by the prison staff, even though some reports of mistreatment had been received.  How many complaints of mistreatment had been submitted by prisoners? 

As for inter-prisoner violence, Ms. Racu reminded that especially vulnerable inmates were those who had not committed serious offences.  What were the statistics on the incidence of violence?  Remarkable progress in terms of the regime in correctional facilities had been noted in prisons in the Republika Srpska.  Did prisoners benefit from rehabilitation or treatment programmes and vocational activities? 

On healthcare and access to medical doctors in prisons, it was noted that there had been no significant improvement in coordination between the health and justice ministries in providing healthcare, and that there was a lack of consistent approach to manage communicable diseases and combat drug use.  What concrete steps did the Government envisage to undertake to improve the medical care in prisons by ensuring the necessary number of medical personnel, supplying adequate quantities of medication, and by improving the quality of medical records? 

With respect to women in prison, conditions had been significantly improved since the opening of a new facility in eastern Sarajevo in 2012.  That facility had been built in accordance with the European rules and there was a special place for women with babies and young children.  In Tuzla, convicts complained about the lack of understanding for their specific needs and lack of hygienic necessities. 

Turning to juveniles in detention, Ms. Racu expressed concern about insufficient alternative measures to detention and forms of rehabilitation for children in conflict with the law, with instances of children being detained together with adults, lack of access to education, and extended pre-trial detention.  What was the number of juveniles in detention, including in pre-trial detention?  What were the alternative sanctions and non-custodial measures applicable to children in Bosnia and Herzegovina?  What were the existing measures to encourage good behaviour among minors in detention?

As for the complaints mechanism and investigation of complaints of torture and ill-treatment, what was the updated information about the 150 “unresolvable” cases alleging torture or ill-treatment?  How long did it take the State party to resolve cases initially classified as “unresolvable” and what were legal reasons for classifying a case as unresolvable? 

On gender-based violence, the Committee was concerned about the reports that domestic violence was a persistent and underreported problem, that data collection was insufficient, that the police response and the mechanisms to protect and support victims were inadequate, and that there was insufficient local access to shelters.  How did the State party ensure that cases of domestic violence were recorded and thoroughly investigated, that perpetrators were prosecuted and punished with appropriate sanctions, and that victims had access to effective remedies and means of protection? 

As for human trafficking, why had there been no single conviction for trafficking between 2014 and 2015?  Were statistics available on investigations, prosecutions and punishments provided in the State party’s report for 2011-2013?  What were the details of the national anti-trafficking action plan for 2016-2019 which had been approved by the Council of Ministers in December 2015?  Had the State party signed any agreements on police cooperation to fight and prevent human trafficking since its previous report?

There were major shortcoming in the processing of war crimes at the State level, which included the lack of experience by State war crimes prosecutors, inadequate management of war crime cases, parallel prosecutions by the State and entity prosecutors, inconsistency in the legal characterization of crimes, and low-quality indictments.  Similar problems had been reported when it came to the investigation of the war-related crimes of sexual violence, Ms. Racu noted. 

With respect to redress and compensation, Ms. Racu reminded that Bosnia and Herzegovina had failed to adopt the draft National Strategy on Transitional Justice, which had been drafted in 2011-2012.  What was the current status of that initiative?  Why had the State party reduced the budget of the Missing Persons Institute?  Was the State party taking measures to ensure that families of missing persons were provided with rehabilitation services and were those efforts consistent across entities?  What steps had been taken to harmonize legislation and policies so that the rights of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence to reparations were consistently recognized?  Did victims benefit from free legal aid, psychological and health services, as well as economic empowerment programmes?

On lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, the police and the justice sector were still not systematically gathering information on hate crimes committed on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and sex discrimination.  Were there any relevant statistics available on offences and violent incidents against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex activists? What was the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in detention? 
 
Questions by Committee Experts

Experts inquired about the steps taken to improve conditions in the Sarajevo prison and about the number of prisoners hosted there.  What concrete measures had been taken to improve conditions in parts of the Tuzla, Zenica, Mostar and Bijeljina prisons?

As for the mechanisms overseeing the work of the police, the problem was that members of the two existing bodies had not been appointed yet.  Democratic oversight of the police in Bosnia and Herzegovina had not existed for more than two years.  Was that information accurate?  How many complaints and cases had been referred to courts? 

Why was disaggregated data not gathered?  Was that a political or practical decision?  

On assistance to victims of war-time sexual abuse and torture, the relevant programme had not been approved by all levels of the Government.  The position of the Republika Srpska was that certain sections of the programme should be deleted and others added.  Was that position satisfactory from the point of view of the federal Government?  Did the controversy continue?  Investigation techniques in cases of war-time sexual violence had been praised by international non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, but objected to in the Republika Srpska.   Another problem concerned reported lenient sentences for war-time sexual violence.  

What was the status of laws treating violence against women?  Were those laws having the desired impact? 

The definition of torture differed in the two entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it was not included in the Criminal Code across the country. 

Experts pointed out to obstacles to recognizing the status of civilian victims of war, notably women victims of mass rape, and the lack of relevant investigations.  The big backlog in investigations of war crimes raised the issue of impunity.  There was a disparity in the number of reported cases of war-time mass rape and the number of prosecuted cases.  How could that disparity be explained? 

How many cases had been referred to the special chamber for war crimes of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the crimes of torture and mass rape?  There was a problem of various levels of justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Who decided which court would be seized on specific matters?

Hate speech very often involved political figures, which was an issue that the State party needed to tackle.  Efforts needed to be stepped up to tackle hate speech when it occurred in public.

There was a tendency to hold persons deprived of liberty in psychiatric hospitals.  Could persons stripped of nationality appeal that decision?  The deadline for appeal against expulsion was too short. 

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the definition of torture at the State-level law was aligned with the definition of the Convention, whereas the wording was almost the same in the law of the Republika Srpska.  The Criminal Codes of the Brcko District and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina still had the old definition of torture.  War-time sexual violence was well defined in the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The State War Crimes Strategy stipulated that the most serious and complex cases would be completed in seven years, whereas in 15 years all other cases would be prosecuted.  

The Council of Ministers had established a working group in April 2017 to consider the parameters for the completion of the State War Crimes Strategy by 2023 and to address the backlog of cases.  The working group had received expert assistance from the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Prosecutor’s Office, and the associations of judges and prosecutors from the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Relevant witness protection programmes were in place.  Protocols with neighbouring countries regarding the gathering and exchange of evidence had also been signed.    

Responses by the Delegation

With regard to the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the delegation explained that this was the only court that had jurisdiction over the gravest crimes and over the whole territory.  According to the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes, war crime cases were tried by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had the authority to transfer such cases to the prosecutors of the entities and the entities’ courts.  The Court had three divisions - administrative, criminal and appellate, and the criminal division contained a department for war crimes, for organized crime, and for general crimes. 

The war crimes department tried most cases involving torture or any treatment amounting to torture.  There were five panels of judges, each composed of three judges, which was sufficient to prosecute all war crime cases, which were transferred to the Court after an indictment had been prepared by the Prosecutor of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Court tried the most serious cases, which included torture, enforced disappearances, deportation of civilians, mass rape, shelling of civilian areas, and other grave crimes.  A body was in place which decided which cases would be given to the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, based on those and other criteria, such as the nature of the perpetrator, and his or her function and capacity in a particular authority – the higher the position, then the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina had jurisdiction.

In the Brèko District, the police had an obligation to inform a person deprived of liberty, in his or her own language, of the reason for deprivation of liberty, the right to remain silent, the right to a lawyer of his or her own choosing, and the right to inform the family or the embassy.  A person who could not afford a lawyer would have one appointed ex officio.  Complaints against the police could be filed with the Commission for Public Oversight for the Police Work in the Assembly of the Brèko District, to the Commission for the Appointment of the Chief of the Police, or to the Unit for professional standards within the Police of the Brèko District.  All interrogations of persons deprived of liberty were recorded.

According to the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, valid throughout the territory of the State, a suspect had to be informed of the crime that he or she was charged with, the grounds for suspicion, and be advised of his or her rights.  The Code of Criminal Procedure provided that the suspect could state his or her statement that were in their own favour, which would be part of the defence at the trial.  The interrogation could not start without the presence of a lawyer.

In order to prevent torture by the police in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the police had to abide by the Criminal Code and other laws and bylaws which detailed the rights of persons deprived of liberty and the obligations of police officers.  Each person deprived of liberty was allowed a medical examination immediately upon entering a place of detention.  Inspections took place regularly throughout the cantons of the Federation, in order to monitor the conditions of detention.  The Government of the Federation took progressive steps to improve the conditions in places of detention within the limits of the budget.

As for an external mechanism for the surveillance of the work of the police, the delegation said that Parliament had issued on 30 October 2017 a proposal of a decision on the setting up of a committee for appeals of citizens, which would have the mandate to monitor the work of the police.  In addition, the laws and regulations allowed for the forming of ad hoc bodies for the investigation of specific issues.

On the provision of healthcare to inmates in prisons, a delegate said that doctors and other medical staff were employees of the prison service and had to comply with medical standards and ethics.  Medical care to prisoners was being provided in accordance with medical ethics.  In Republika Srpska, there were no cases of inmates receiving differential or substandard treatment and no complaints in relation to health care had been filed.  When the prison medical facilities were unable to meet the health needs of inmates, they had the right to be referred to a specialist of their own choice.  Six prisons in Republika Srpska did not have employed doctors, but had contracts with doctors from the local health centres instead.

All international instruments and standards required for the work in prison were part and parcel of training of prison officers, and this included training on the Convention against Torture.  Such training was now mandatory not only for the prison officers, but for all other personnel working in prisons.

In response to questions raised about the very bad conditions in Bijeljina prison, a delegate explained that the building of a new prison had been approved in 2010, but the implementation was going very slowly, with delays due to various factors, which had negatively impacted the allocation of funds and thus the completion of construction.

Violence between inmates was treated as a disciplinary matter in accordance with the law on the execution of criminal sanctions.  All inmates had the right to be heard and the final decision was made by a Commission, whose decision could be appealed.

The division of enhanced supervision aimed to prevent inmates from disturbing peace and order in the prison by applying special methods and measures.  It was clear that this could only be pronounced as a measure of last resort, when all other measures had been exhausted.  The decision was made by the judiciary and not by prison administrators.  There was only one women’s prison in Republika Srpska, in East Sarajevo, and it currently had 22 inmates. 

As for the treatment of juveniles in Republika Srpska, the 2011 juvenile justice law stipulated the rules not only for juvenile perpetrators but also for juvenile victims and witnesses.  The law defined detention as a measure of last resort, said a delegate, and informed the Committee that since the adoption of the law in 2011 until the end of 2015, detention sentences had been issued in only 12 cases, and all of them for heavy criminal offences.  Training had been organized for members of the police, prosecutors, judges and others, and to date, 1,160 participants had been trained in juvenile justice law.

The State prison, or the institute for the execution of criminal sanctions at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had been agreed upon with the European Union.  It would respect all European standards for the treatment of convicted persons and persons on remand, and would have the capacity of 348 beds.  The prison would be completed by end of 2018, and would largely contribute to resolving the problem of overcrowding and bed prison conditions. 

In the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the issue of overcrowding was acute only in the Sarajevo prison, and steps had been taken to transfer inmates to other prisons, such as Busovaca and Zenica, which had the capacity.  The Sarajevo prison did not have conditions to host persons in pre-trial detention, and the authorities were negotiating the transfer of prisoners to other locations; a funding application had been filed for the construction of a new prison in Sarajevo.

There were two full-time medical doctors and 15 nurses in Zenica prison, and there were service contracts with the local health centres and the cantonal hospital for the provision of health services.  In Tuzla prison, there was one medical doctor, and a total of 32 nurses in other prisons in the Federation.  In 2015, 83 alternative measures of community service had been imposed by municipal courts on convicted persons.

A juvenile justice law was in force in the Federation, and a rule book had been issued to facilitate the training of prison, police and court officers, and social workers as well.  There was no unified training plan in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which relied on projects and support from the Council of Europe.  The new juvenile home in Orašje had become operational and it currently had 10 juvenile inmates.  Juveniles were fully separated from the adult prison population in Zenica prison.

As for the complaint system in prisons, there was a three-tier complaint system in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina: an inmate could turn to a prison officer who was obliged to reply in written form on the same piece of paper on which the complaint had been made; an inmate could then complain to the head of the department of the prison, and to the prison administrator, who had to reply in writing.  Once this procedure was exhausted, an inmate could complain to the Ministry of Justice or the Office of the Ombudsman.

On processing of war crimes, the delegation explained that the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina tried the crimes under the Criminal Code, in the chapter on the protection of humanity, which covered war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture.  Because of the huge number of such cases, the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes envisaged the creation of a separate body – a panel of judges - to allocate the cases to cantonal or municipal courts.  The number of cases allocated to other courts was very small, largely because the courts were poorly equipped for witness protection.  The situation had been remedied in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, and the process of transferring cases to cantonal and municipal courts was ongoing.

The Law on the Programme of Witness Protection had been adopted and it envisaged a special commission to reach decisions on various witness protection measures, including a change of identity or transfer to a third country.  The process of interrogation of witnesses had been improved, it took place in private, their identity was protected, and they received psychological support throughout the process.

There had been cases in which sentences for war crimes had been reduced without any justification.  The Ministry of Justice had proposed amendments to the Criminal Code to prohibit the reduction of a sentence, or even commuting of the sentence and replacing it with a financial fine, for crimes under Chapter 17 of the Criminal Code on the protection of human rights.

In order to ensure the independence of judges, Bosnia and Herzegovina had formed a High Council of the Judiciary in 2004, composed of judges elected by the professional community.  Furthermore, all vacancies for posts of judges and prosecutors were published, interviews were held with prospective candidates, and then the appointment took place.

In the period from 2011 to 2015, 38 indictments had been brought for war crimes with elements of sexual violence, which had resulted in six convictions.  
 
In terms of the alignment of the Office of the Ombudsman with the Paris Principles, Bosnia and Herzegovina had adopted in September 2017 the recommendations made by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation, which included, inter alia, to extend the mandate to include not only the protection but also the promotion of human rights and to ensure that it acted as a national preventive mechanism for torture.  The law was awaiting adoption by Parliament.

The Law on Asylum and the Law on Foreigners in 2016 demonstrated the commitment of Bosnia and Herzegovina to align its legislation with the laws of the European Union, defined the rules for the provision of international protection, and established the principle of non-refoulement.

In 2013, the Federation had passed the new law on protection from domestic violence which followed the provisions of the Convention; it was meant to educate and protect victims of domestic violence and was not repressive.  It was very difficult to apply the law because out of six rule books, three major ones had not been enacted, including those on the work and operation of safe houses in Bosnia and Herzegovina and on the competence of the social work services of the Federation for psychological support to victims of domestic violence. 

Questions by the Experts
 
JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Country Co-Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, asked what was being done to address wide-spread torture in prisons throughout the country, and to ensure the application in practice of fundamental safeguards.  Was the right to medical examination upon arrival to a place of detention a legal right?  As for the video recording of interrogations in police stations in the Brèko District, was there a systematic monitoring of recording to ensure that a lawyer was indeed present throughout?  Torture was defined differently in different entities, and sanctions varied – it was important to ensure that there was a common understanding of what torture was and what sanctions it carried, stressed the Chair.  If a doctor identified signs of torture on inmates and individuals in pre-trial detention, which body could this be reported to?

ANA RACU, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, called upon the State party to take decisive steps to improve material conditions in prisons and to increase the use of alternatives to detention.  How frequently were medical restraints used in prisons and how many inmates were affected?  What was being done to reduce the number of violent incidents in prisons due to inmate violence?  Could the delegation comment on the effectiveness and independence of the complaint mechanism against police officers?  How were victims of torture and war-related crimes compensated?  Ms. Racu urged the State party to invigorate the work on the implementation of the strategy for transitional justice and adopt the framework law for the protection of victims of torture, including victims of conflict-related sexual violence.  The Committee remained concerned about the number of war crime cases pending prosecution.

Other Experts stressed that all victims must enjoy equal protection and asked about measures to be taken to eliminate all discriminatory aspects from the law on victims, particularly those victims of collective and massive violations.  Could the delegation inform about steps taken to address the manifestation of hate which was clearly very present in the political discourse by some political parties, and also explain the controversy in the Naser Oriæ trial?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation explained that, as a consequence of the war, it was not obligatory to keep all data segregated by nationality.  There had been several cases in which citizenship had been revoked, but it was not because of crimes committed but because of the process not being in line with the law.

Bosnia and Herzegovina had been trying for years to come to an agreement on the law on torture and to ensure that all victims of torture, including war time torture, were treated equally.  Republika Srpska was working on a draft law, although some of its parts were not yet compliant with international standards.  The recommendations from this Committee as well as the European Committee against Torture, and those by the Ombudsman, were transmitted to all entities and ministries; at the moment, the status of implementation of those recommendation was not known.

The Ministry of Justice had started an initiative to draft and pass the law on hate speech, said a delegate and stressed that political will was required to pass this law, and to harmonize a number of other laws throughout the entities, in particular the law on torture and the law on victims of torture.

A new pavilion was being built and new staff recruited in the Zenica prison, said a delegate, stressing that overcrowding was a problem only in pre-trial detention in the Sarajevo prison.

As far as the training on the Convention was concerned, judges and prosecutors were trained in centres for prosecutorial and judicial training which had annual programmes of work.

Concluding Remarks

SALIHA DJUDERIJA, Assistant Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thanked the Committee Experts for the exchange of views about the situation in the country.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and said that the concluding observations would be issued at the end of this session.  He encouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina to submit to the Committee a plan for their implementation.

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