By Daria Sito-Sucic
SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The United Nations has ordered Bosnia to compensate a woman raped by a soldier during war and to set up a nationwide war crimes reparation scheme, after the first case of sexual violence brought before the U.N. Committee Against Torture.
Campaigners said the complaint by the Bosnian Muslim woman, who was raped by a Bosnian Serb soldier in 1993, could serve as a precedent, allowing sexual violence victims to demand compensation globally under international laws on torture.
The Committee’s decision was reached in early August and has been reviewed by Reuters but not yet officially published.
The woman, whose identity has been protected throughout the process, was raped in 1993 near Sarajevo. Her rapist was convicted and ordered to pay her 15,000 euros in compensation, but was unable to do so because he did not have the money.
The Committee found that the state must pay her instead, and set up a scheme so that other victims owed similar compensation could also receive it. The case was brought by the woman with the support of Trial International, a non-governmental organisation helping victims of sexual violence.
The United Nations estimates that at least 20,000 women were subjected to sexual violence as a tool of warfare during the Bosnian war in the 1990s in which more than 100,000 people died.
The Committee concluded that Bosnia had violated the U.N. Convention against Torture and needed to provide prompt, fair and adequate compensation and free medical and psychological care to the complainant, as well as a public apology.
“We regard this decision as revolutionary, not only for Bosnia but also globally because this body has rendered for the first time a decision based on a complaint of a victim of war sexual violence,” Adrijana Hanusic Becirovic, a Trial International senior legal adviser, told Reuters.
The committee also rejected a statute of limitations under which Bosnia deems many war crimes claims from the 1990s as too old to prosecute. The Committee said such practice is “unduly restrictive and represents an insurmountable barrier” to the enforcement of the right of victims to compensation.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Peter Graff)