SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Amnesty International has urged Bosnia to seek justice for up to 50,000 women and girls who were raped during the country's 1992-95 war and to punish the perpetrators, many of whom still hold public posts.
During the war, Bosnian Croats, Serbs, and Muslims all participated in systematic rape as part of widespread ethnic cleansing. But the victims, most of them Muslims, have been denied reparations given to civilian war victims, the human rights watchdog said in a report.
"It is a shame that the authorities have been neglecting the needs of the survivors for the last 14 years," Amnesty official Marek Marczynski told a news conference. "These women do not want charity, they want their right to reparation and justice."
Marczynski said that different estimates put the number of the rape victims, most of them Muslims, in the range of 20,000 to 50,000, and that impunity for such mass-scale crimes of sexual violence still prevails.
"In many places a lot of police officers who allegedly raped still hold their positions, which prevents the victims from reporting the crime," he said.
Many victims do not dare to talk because of the trauma and stigma, and suffer from nightmares, depression, flashbacks, anxiety and feelings of insecurity, shame and guilt, he said.
The authorities have failed to provide victims with access to adequate health care or psychological support and only nongovernmental organizations offer such assistance, Marczynski said.
In addition, many women cannot get any social benefits due to the complex structure of Bosnia's judicial and welfare systems, and suffer discrimination in getting access to such help compared to other war victims.
"The authorities must ensure comprehensive investigations that lead to prosecutions of war crimes of sexual violence in the country," the Amnesty report said.
The United Nations war crimes court in The Hague has prosecuted 18 cases of wartime rape. Another 12 cases have been prosecuted by Bosnia's war crimes court, set up in 2005 to try thousands of war crimes suspects and take over lower-ranking cases from the Hague-based court.