Bosnia-Herzegovina: Amnesty International calls for new commitments on the International Day of the "Disappeared"
- * News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
30 August 2002
Seven years after the ending of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Amnesty International called on the authorities in
Bosnia-Herzegovina to make a commitment to the introduction of
new legislation to criminalize acts of "disappearances",
recognizing the severity of this human rights violation.
Specifically, the organization recommends that such provisions
are added to the new State Criminal Code to enable prosecutions
for violations of international humanitarian law by a special
division of the new State Court.
"Despite real progress in the exhumation and
identification of the victims of "disappearances" and abductions
throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina there has been pitiful little
progress in bringing those responsible for these human rights
violations and abuses to justice," Amnesty International stated.
"Indeed the authorities -- especially, (but not exclusively),
those in the Republika Srpska -- have shown almost a wilful
refusal to end impunity for those suspected of "disappearances",
abductions and other human rights violations carried out in the
war in Bosnia-Herzegovina".
Amnesty International supports the ongoing process of
reform of the judicial system and welcomes initiatives to
establish mechanisms to prosecute violations of international
humanitarian law, but the organization warned that without the
political will by the authorities to investigate and prosecute
the perpetrators, the law will be a dead letter, and the culture
of impunity will continue.
To date, criminal investigations have only been initiated
in a handful of "disappearance" cases, and only after
overwhelming pressure and involvement by the international
community. Amnesty International fears that with the end of the
mandate of the IPTF (International Police Task Force) -- which
has actively supported and supervised these investigations --
Bosnian police and judicial officials will receive little
encouragement to initiate such investigations.
Amnesty International believes that without justice for
the survivors of war crimes, the possibility of restoring respect
for human rights and the rule of law, and of enabling ethnic and
political reconciliation, remains a remote possibility for
The human rights organization also urged the authorities
to recognize that "disappearance" is an ongoing violation of the
rights of the relatives of the "disappeared" who continue to be
obstructed or ignored by the authorities in their continuing
search for the truth, and for justice and redress. The pain and
suffering of tens of thousands of relatives amounts to a
violation of their right not to be subjected to torture and
ill-treatment, a view also held by the Human Rights Chamber for
The organization also urged the governments of
Bosnia-Herzegovina to address the special, and so far neglected,
needs of the relatives of the "disappeared" -- many of whom are
still living as internally displaced persons. "The authorities
need to address the current needs of many of the relatives,
especially women and their children, now living as displaced
persons -- often in poverty -- with no prospect of return to
their homes in the foreseeable future," the organization
Finally, Amnesty International again urged the
Stabilization Force (SFOR) to honour the terms of their mandate,
and to actively seek out and arrest those -- like Radovan
Karadzic and Ratko Mladic -- indicted for war crimes by the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. "After
a year of public relations exercises, it is time for some real
action," the organization concluded.
Amnesty International will be represented today at a ceremony in
Sarajevo to mark the International Day of the "Disappeared" in
Sarajevo today, organized by the International Commission for
Missing Persons, and attended by representatives of the family
associations who continue to search for the truth about their
Amnesty International campaigns throughout the world
against impunity for the perpetrators of "disappearances" and
abductions, and for the rights of the relatives of the
"disappeared". In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the organization has
worked continuously on behalf of the families of those who
"disappeared" and were abducted in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
and continues to raise the issue with the authorities in
Bosnia-Herzegovina and at an international level.
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