In cooperation with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Centre for Judicial and Prosecutorial Training in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UK Government has deployed two experts as part of the Foreign Secretary William Hague’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI). They delivered training to Bosnian judges and prosecutors on support to survivors during judicial processes related to war time sexual violence.
During his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in October last year, the Foreign Secretary met organisations that provide support to victims of sexual violence in BiH, as well as survivors themselves. He announced the UK’s determination to provide political and practical support to address issues of impunity relating to these abhorrent crimes. During the visit Mr Hague said, “Bosnian women have suffered cruelly from the use of rape as a weapon of war during the 1990s and from a lack of justice for survivors. I believe that the time has come for a major international effort against all forms of sexual violence in conflict, and to shatter the culture of impunity for those who commit these crimes. This will be a major objective of the UK’s Presidency of the G8 group of nations in 2013”.
One UK expert has extensive experience of investigation, prosecution and adjudication of cases, with a particular focus on the sensitivities of managing cases of sexual violence in conflict. The second expert will look at psychosocial issues, particularly working with victims of severe sexual trauma, both for the purposes of prosecution and for rehabilitation. Both experts are part of a specialist team of UK experts recruited to deploy to countries to support the UN, civil society and national authorities to help build national capacity to address and respond to issues of sexual violence. There are currently 73 members on the UK Team of Experts, 35 of whom are women. The team includes police, lawyers, psychologists, doctors, forensic experts, gender-based violence experts and experts in the care and protection of survivors and witnesses.
At the training, Mrs. Aida Trozic from the Centre for Judicial and Prosecutorial Training in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said, “This is the first time training has been organized exclusively on the topic of war time sexual violence with the aim of training judges and prosecutors to be able to handle these complex and sensitive cases.” The training is part of a larger project to which the UK government provides support, through the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The project supports Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts to reduce the backlog of war crime cases in the State and entity Prosecutors’ Offices, in line with the National War Crimes Strategy, as well as building long-term capacity in BiH to support the development of an effective and transparent judiciary. The 15-month war crimes processing project is being funded by the UK, US, Swiss, Norwegian and Italian governments.
William Hague has placed the issue of tackling impunity for sexual violence in conflict on the G8 Agenda for 2013. The UK wants the G8 to demonstrate a clear commitment to tackling the use of sexual violence in conflict and to challenge the long-standing myths that sexual violence is a cultural phenomenon or an inevitable consequence of war. The UK also wants the G8 at the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in April to make a strong public declaration of the need to hold perpetrators to account as well as to agree to a set of practical measures to overcome the barriers that impede successful investigations and prosecutions.