Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hopes Betrayed

Linked with Azra Hasanbegovic – Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Association “ŽENA BIH”, Mostar, and with Trafficking Women and Children.

TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN AND GIRLS TO POST-CONFLICT BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA FOR FORCED PROSTITUTION … see this 76 pages Report on Human Rights Watch November 2002, Vol. 14, No. 9 (D), have also a look at their Homepage.

Excerpt: … I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – From 1992 through 1995, thousands of women and girls1 suffered rape and other forms of sexual violence during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including abuse in rape camps and detention centers scattered throughout the country. With the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in December 1995, violence against women and girls in Bosnia and Herzegovina did not cease. The grim sexual slavery of the war years has been followed by the trafficking of women and girls for forced prostitution. According to experts of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH), trafficking first began to appear in 1995. As of October 2002, UNMIBH suspected 227 of the nightclubs and bars that dot Bosnian cities and towns of involvement in trafficking in human beings.

Experts from the U.N. mission’s Special Trafficking Operations Program (STOP) stated in a 2001 press conference that approximately 25 percent of the women and girls working in nightclubs and bars were trafficked.2 NGO experts working to stop trafficking in Bosnia and Herzegovina, cautioning that the statistics remain woefully unreliable, estimated that as many as 2,000 women and girls from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have found themselves trapped in Bosnian brothels.

Trafficked women and girls are held in debt bondage, forced to provide sexual services to clients, falsely imprisoned, and beaten when they do not comply with demands of brothel owners who have purchased them and deprived them of their passports. In dozens of interviews with Human Rights Watch and other NGOs, women and girls, mostly trafficked from Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine, described brutality—including physical violence and rape en route to Bosnia and Herzegovina—at the hands of traffickers. Such victim testimony is confirmed by internal reports of the International Police Task Force (IPTF, UNMIBH’s police monitoring force) and local police reports. Many of the women and girls had expected that they would travel to Italy or other Western European countries to work legally. Their ages ranged from seventeen to thirty-three years. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which arranged for temporary shelter and voluntary repatriation of 498 trafficking victims from Bosnia and Herzegovina between August 1999 and October 2002, has reported victims as young as thirteen.

In an investigation from 1999 through 2001, Human Rights Watch uncovered conclusive evidence of widespread trafficking of women and girls into the sex industry throughout both Bosnian entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed five trafficking victims from Ukraine, Romania, and Moldova and reviewed thirty-one other trafficking cases obtained from NGOs, court documents, and verbatim victim statements to identify trends and common abuses along the trafficking chain.

Researchers obtained: twelve verbatim (or handwritten), signed transcripts of victims’ interviews by IPTF officers after a series of well-publicized raids in Prijedor in November 2000; five sworn witness statements provided under oath by trafficking victims to local courts in criminal cases; twelve case summaries provided by Lara, an anti-trafficking NGO in Bijeljina; and two IPTF case summaries drawn from official, confidential IPTF incident reports. Human Rights Watch also interviewed dozens of UNMIBH officials, IPTF officers, representatives of international organizations, leaders of NGOs, as well as Bosnian judges, prosecutors, and police officers. In addition, Human Rights Watch reviewed hundreds of pages of documents, both open source and internal UNMIBH and U.S. military documents.

The interviews and transcripts revealed with few exceptions that traffickers, most of them local Bosnians, needed harbor little fear of criminal prosecution or punishment for their crimes: trafficking laws went largely unenforced, providing no protection for the victims of these serious human rights abuses. Corruption within the Bosnian police force allowed the trafficking of women and girls to flourish … (go to above link to read the other 76 pages).

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