Bosnia & Herzegovinia

A woman, nearing the end of middle age, tells of her past: “They tortured me; they did unimaginable things.  I begged them to kill me” (UNFPA report).

“Life after also torments…” These are words spoken on the genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Michael Schmunk, of IP Global, looks at mass murder and reconciliation.  Mass murder and the crimes that are committed along the way survive for years upon years, but the consequences can be numbed.

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.”  We are all familiar with the words that constitute Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The United States Constitution expresses a similar sentiment.  The victims that are survivors of war crimes of sexual violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina were disgraced, and betrayed.  The obvious desecration of “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment”, Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, occurred.  That terror the victims experienced did not end when the criminal act ended.

Marginalization and neglect again come into play, as authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have not taken adequate action to allow access to justice and reparation for the victims of war crimes of sexual violence, according to Amnesty International.  This organization’s trip to the region included interviews of victims, who all agreed more must be done.  The story is clear and tragic-these women had their lives torn apart by war, their dignity annihilated by repeated rape and various forms of torture, and these terrifying acts were followed by abandonment, lack of funds to acquire necessary treatment, unemployment, poverty, and the knowledge that those who destroyed their lives by the utter dismissal of the voice of reason and humanity live their lives exempt from punishment.

War veterans receive social benefits, yet these women do not.  Their claim for aid is not as well voiced, because of the social stigma attached to rape.  Relatives and friends, as these victims “dishonored” them, abandoned many.  Non-governmental organizations were the first to act for the victims, allowing more voices to be heard; some deal with psychotherapy, some with physical trauma, and some with advocacy and lobbying for the victims’ rights. One woman said she would crawl to the meeting where she could tell her story (UNFPA report). Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities are finally doing more, due to international pressure.  Policy and legal changes have been started by the government to bring the much over due justice to the victims of a never-ending world of horror.

We can act.  Write your Senators on America’s need to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.  Prevent a world where women cannot receive access to necessities, and equality.  That prevention could lead to the creation of a world where the atrocities of genocide and torture are no more than whispers of a past that cannot be repeated.

If you have further interest in the victims of the genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina check out: www.unfpa.org/swp/2010/web/en/pdf/EN_SOWP10.pdf

Or the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women check out: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/

Emily Harmon

Iowa UNA

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