WHY BH DOESN’T HAVE A NATIONAL LAW ON CIVILIAN VICTIMS? The general principles of international law define the position and the status of the victim regardless of their race, nationality, religion or gender. However, in Bosnia and Herzegovina the commonly accepted and adopted international conventions and resolutions are not appropriately respected, so civilian war victims become divided according to these criteria (national, religious and political identity), despite the fact that they should be the factors of cohesion and connection in the realization of the rights of all civilian war victims. Despite of competent UN authorities having published their official conclusions and recommendations to the BH authorities to rapidly adopt the Torture and civilian war victim’s rights law, the Ministerial Council and the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina have detained the victims’ civilian initiative and have not carried out the required procedure, which is needed to adopt the most important law protecting the war victims and their rights. BH has signed all the international conventions about victim’s protection and rights and has also signed the Convention against torture and other kinds of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and punishment (CAT), which was adopted on 10 December 1984 with the UN General Assembly Resolution number A/RES/39/46. After the first report about Bosnia and Herzegovina (CAT/C/21/Add.6), directed to the UN regarding adoption of the above mentioned Convention, the UN has sent the conclusions and recommendations adopted on the 689th session through its competent Committee against torture charged for controlling and respecting the Convention that took place on the 667th and 670th sessions (CAT/C/SR.667 and 670) on November 8 and 9, 2005 for Bosnia and Herzegovina to urgently accede to the legal definition and legal recognition of the Convention. In addition to the requirement for the implementation and recognition of the Convention against torture and other kinds of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and punishment, the UN Committee has demanded from Bosnia and Herzegovina to rapidly carry out: “harmonization of laws, executive, judicial, administrative and other measures in order to harmonize norms and practices for reducing and preventing the cases of torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading practices with the prescriptions of the Convention, as well as compensation of all the persons that have undergone such treatment.” WAR VICTIMS - HOSTAGES OF POLITICAL ELITES There are about 12,000 registered non-governmental organizations in BH and over 50% of them represent the victims or are dealing with their rights protection. These organizations are a priori divided into those from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBH) and to those from Republika Srpska (RS), and consequently divided by the ethnic principle. In Republika Srpska the newly-elected president Milorad Dodik has the complete control over the whole non-governmental sector (with rare exceptions) with such organizations being directly financed and/or sponsored by his government. Through presidents of such war victims organizations, such as Branislav Dukić, Nedeljko Mitrović or Slavko Jovičić “Slavuj”, who acted as a political tool and obtained his second mandate as a Member of the Bosnian Parliament thanks to his “achievements” as a vice-president of the Concentration camp detainee association of Republika Srpska. The actual Dodik’s and Serbian government have launched a large campaign “to spread the truth about the Serbian suffering between 1992 and 1995” and are trying to relativize the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica, thus stopping and obstructing adoption of a law dealing with the rights and protections of the victims on the national (BH) level. In obstructing laws on the national level, Slavko Jovičić-Slavuj precedes everyone else and was also rewarded by Dodik by putting him on a list and choosing him for a MP before the Association of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD). Despite Serbian victims better positioning through law adoption on the national level with more efficient and enduring solutions, Dodik and his political accomplices are not interested in laws on the national level, not even when it comes to interests of Serbian victims. In FBH the Bosniak political elite is not only in defensive, but complementary with Dodik’s politics about the so-called “umbrella” law on the national level in Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding all war victims. There are many reasons, but the common denominator of them all is that also the Bosniak elites wish to have a direct control over the war victims associations, because the notorious fact is that the whole non-governmental sector(more than 12,000 organizations) depends on the state budget (from state, entity, canton or municipality). Unlike the Dodik’s model, where Dodik unquestionably controls all victim associations in RS, in FBH Bosniak elites transferred their own division to the victim associations, so that classical Bosniak political blocks were created among victims. Victims in FBH and RS have become classical hostages of the political elites. HDZ almost entirely controls all the victim associations and the majority of non-governmental associations with have anything to do with Croatian interests. In this kind of situation the adoption of the state-level war victim law seems to be a priority and an imperative, especially after forming the new government in BH, bearing in mind that Dodik’s SNSD the most probable participant in the state-level authority. WHO IS THREATENING THE SOCIETY FOR THREATENED PEOPLES? Despite the fact that the activity and number of foreign and international non-governmental associations is constantly diminishing since the year 2000, Bosnia and Herzegovina is still one of the havens of foreign non-governmental association activity. The question arising is what is the role of these associations in not adopting the laws on national level in Bosnia and Herzegovina and what exactly did they do for respecting and implementing the warrants given by the UN to urgently adopt the law? The goal of such organizations should be to encourage the victim associations to exceed their fragmentation and division on no-matter-which grounds, as well as the financial independence from the inexorable and cruel Bosnian-Herzegovian politics by implementing the law on a national level that would unconditionally guarantee the protection of victims and their financial independence from political elites. But is it like that? The case of the Society for Threatened Peoples (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker) from German Göttingen, which has an active section in Bosnia and Herzegovina most illustratively shows the carelessness and negligence of the international non-governmental sector when it comes to the war victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The managing director of this society Tilman Zülch is the most deserved for the international campaign to spread the truth about Bosnian war and the suffering of the war victims. The contribution of Tilman Zülch in the international affirmation of Bosnian victims is extremely positive. However, the analytics are alerting that a considerable damage to the war victims was caused by the Bosnian section of this Society, which is led by Fadila Memišević. Despite the fact that this Society should treat all the victims of the war in BH on an equal footing, the reality is different. Fadila Memišević imposed herself as the supposedly exclusive protector of Bosniak war victims’ interests and by acting so additionally contributed to the ethnic divisions of all the war victims and also to the division of Bosniak war victim associations. In this way Fadila Memišević and the Bosnian section of the Society for Threatened Peoples became the carriers of ethnic politics (some international and some from the surroundings), according to which the current catastrophically bad situation (where victims are divided according to their religion, ethnicity and territory) in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be maintained. Instead of these kind of international organizations being the initiators of law implementation and incorporation of international conventions into the Bosnian legislation, so that the victims would receive the same treatment and status and would reduce their dependence on politics and political leaders, the victim organizations in BH are, in fact, doing the same thing as the political elites. The current state suits them or they are heating up the state of division and conflict among victim associations and by this creating a unique kind of victims’ victimization. If the local representatives of non-governmental organizations have high incomes that sway from 2000 to 2500 €, as in the case of the leadership of the Bosnian section of the Society for Threatened Peoples and most of them has a seat exclusively in Sarajevo, it is becoming clearer why adopting the Law on the national level is not the priority of these organizations and their leaders, as well as of others who are making money, living off and effectively taking advantage of the aggrieved victims. If the management of the Society for Threatened Peoples from Göttingen and Tilman Zülch do not change their general operation through their Bosnian section, led by Fadila Memišević, the international institute IFIMES will be forced to turn to the UN Security Council and the competent Committee. We are urging all international non-governmental organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Tilman Zülch to urgently start the initiative for adopting the Basic Law on Torture and Civilian War Victims’ Rights at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina. AUTHORITIES AND VICTIM ASSOCIATIONS ON THE MOVE The IFIMES International Institute believes that it is necessary to call all the competent institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (despite the fact of them being in technical mandate) and the competent minister Safet Halilović to start the urgent procedure necessary for the implementation of the Basic Law on Torture and Civilian Victims’ Rights through the Ministry of Human Rights and refugees in BH at the national level, which the Ministry had to prepare by November 2008 the way it was provided by the work plan of BH Minister Council for 2008. The analytics believe that it is crucial that all the victim associations in BH, regardless of their ethnic or religious identity, persist on their mutual and shared cooperation, resulting in the implementation of the national law, which would permanently protect their rights and ensure compensations which they would be entitled to according to the new war victims law at the national level. Ljubljana, 5 November 2010 International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) – Ljubljana Director: Bakhtyar Aljaf
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