Following the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1992, the Bosnian War broke out and lasted until 1995 with the signing of the Dayton Accords. The war resulted in the deaths of approximately 100,000 civilians and the forced displacement of over 2 million people, and was marked by horrific acts of sexual violence, ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Before the war, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia held a multi-ethnic population of Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. After the secession of Slovenia and Croatia, and following the declaration of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence, Bosnian Serb forces countered, starting the ethnic cleansing campaigns. Bosnian Serb forces besieged Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from 1992 to 1996. Citizens were attacked daily by shelling and snipers and 11,000 people were killed. In 1995, the Bosnian Serb Forces with their Colonel, General Ratko Mladić, attacked an enclave in Srebrenica. Over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were executed from 13 to 19 July. The war ended in 1995, with the imposition of a final ceasefire after NATO’s intervention. The Dayton Accords, signed on December 14, 1995, ended the war and divided Bosnia and Herzegovina into two autonomous entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Croat-Bosniak) and the Republic of Srpska.
During the war, between 20,000 to 60,000 women were raped, mostly Muslim women by Bosnian Serb troops. Sexual violence was used as a planned and systematic strategy of ethnic cleansing, but also to spread fear, humiliation and shame. Women who became pregnant were forced to keep their children of Serb ethnicity. Rape camps were also established, where large-scale rape, torture and forced prostitution took place.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established by the United Nations to deal with the war crimes and mass atrocities committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan conflicts in the 1990s. The ICTY was the first court ever to convict people for rape and sexual enslavement as crimes against humanity. Still, many survivors have never met justice. They have inadequately been given access to reparations, and they are often not recognized as legitimate war victims. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women stated in 2017 “conflict-related sexual violence investigations in the country had been ineffective and too slow, and there was insufficient compensation and support for victims in Bosnian and Herzegovina.” Victims of war still suffer from the social, physical, and psychological effects of their trauma.
The Mukwege Foundation is linked to two national survivor networks in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Naš Glas (Our Voice) is an organisation for the Protection of Victims and Survivors of Sexual Violence during War, based in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The organisation is directed directly by victims and survivors and aims to face the past, eliminate the “conspiracy of silence” and promote the values of a democratic civil society, such as humanism, non-violence and tolerance. Naš Glas focuses on improving the situation of the victims and survivors – both men and women – of these crimes, raising awareness about the consequences of CRSV and fighting stigma and discrimination. Naš Glas also works towards the process of creating a peaceful coexistence of the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina by contributing to the development of new models and programmes for violence prevention and psychosocial care.
“Suze”, Association for support to victims and survivors of wartime sexual violence, is based in Brčko, and was founded in 2016 with the aim of providing help and support to survivors of wartime sexual violence, both women and men. It is the only multi-ethnic organisation in Brčko that provides support to war victims. They represent the most vulnerable category derived from war, regardless of their religion, nation, race, or age. It is the first Association in Brčko that publicly marked the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, on June 19, 2021, with the message that they do not want anyone’s pity, but recovery, hope, and justice for all victims of sexual violence in the war. Association “Suze” is a human-rights organisation whose members strive to improve their local community. They fight for their rights and for their stories not to be forgotten but to serve as lessons for future generations. Their message for all future members of the Association is:
Dear mothers, sisters, and others join us! We are stronger together and you have to remember: WAKE UP, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Address: Zlatarska 4, 75000 Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Phone: +387 61 411 148
Address: Dušana Vasiljeva 6, 76100 Brčko, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Phone: +387 62 388 554