Thursday, November 10, 2011

War Crimes: UN envoy welcomes conviction for rape and murder during Bosnian conflict

The envoy spearheading United Nations efforts to combat sexual violence in conflict today welcomed the conviction of a Bosnian Serb ex-soldier for acts of murder, rape and enslavement during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.

Sasa Baricanin was found guilty and sentenced to 18 years in prison by a court in Bosnia and Herzegovina of various war crimes carried out in the city of Sarajevo in 1992-93, according to media reports.

In a statement, Margot Wallström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said the verdict sent a strong signal that justice must ultimately prevail for victims of sexual violence.

Yet she warned that for the majority of the estimated tens of thousands of victims from the Balkan conflicts, there is still no justice.

“To date, there have been just 30 convictions in response to an estimated 50,000 rapes during the years of war,” she said. “While it is a positive step that the War Crimes Court in Sarajevo has reached this verdict, the pace of justice for sexual violence survivors has been painfully slow.”

Ms. Wallström paid tribute to the witnesses who testified in the Baricanin case.

“Ultimately, their actions contribute to strengthening the rule of law in Bosnia as a whole. It is crucial that these and other witnesses are afforded full legal protection, and I trust that the relevant authorities will take all possible measures to ensure their safety.

“This case is yet another testament to the resilience of Bosnian women who have joined forces in their quest for justice, both within and beyond the courtroom.”