Human Rights Violations
There is a long history of the violation of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most violations were carried out through a process called “ethnic cleansing,” which is the killing, mockery and banishment of unwanted minorities. In this conflict, the Bosnian Muslims made up the majority of Serbians in this region and they wanted to rid the country of all Non-Serbians. The violations of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina were mass atrocities. The country has never fully amended or reckoned with human rights violations and this fact creates problems in the country even today.

The country’s government is still highly decentralized and distressed by ongoing internal ethnic conflicts. The Dayton Accords ended the war, splitting the territories and creating a democratic republic with a bicameral parliament. Those who suffer most from violations of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina are the victims of civil war, refugees, national minorities and the LGBTQ community. Little support from the country or government is being given to help these victims fight human rights violations.

There are a few non-governmental organizations that have been successful in assisting those who are fighting abuses. An organization, called the Human Rights Centre of the University of Sarajevo, has been providing the universities in Bosnia and Herzegovina with tools for education that can work towards achieving international implementation of human rights. It promotes vital documentation, lectures, expert advice and research in order to work toward the international implementation goal.

The Post-Conflict Research Center has dedicated its time to preserving and revamping the culture of peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It works towards preventing violence and radical movements through research, peace education, transitional justice and respecting human rights. It has an ultimate goal of changing the country’s view on diversity from a source of conflict to a source of acceptance and community.

Another NGO called the Sarajevo Open Centre directly advocates for the LGBTQ community. It works to empower people, especially those facing the most abuse, through integration into the community and activism.
One other organization called the Association for Democratic Initiatives focuses on restoring the rule of law, European Union integrations and the protection of human rights. This organization has been trying to render the support of the government in fighting human rights violations. This organization is important for building a society of peace because without government support and aid this proves challenging.

There remains a long way to go in order to fully mend the violations of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the past, as well as the ones that continue to occur due to those in the past. These non-governmental organizations have been the country’s best hope for working towards respecting the human rights of all people.

Katelynn Kenworthy

Photo: Flickr

bosnian genocide
In the mid 90’s, the newly independent Bosnia-Herzegovina was divided by conflict and genocide. Led by Slobodan Milosevic, Bosnian Serbs wanted to create a Serbian state. When an independent Bosnia-Herzegovina was established, the Bosnian Serbs used their goal to commit widespread human rights violations. By 1995, Bosnian Serbs killed over 100,000 Bosnian Muslims and Croatians.

From July 11 to July 13, 1995, during the Bosnian Genocide, the Serbian nationalists killed nearly 10,000 Bosnian Muslims in the Srebrenica Massacre. During the massacre, Dutch peacekeepers, Dutchbat, who were supposed to guard the town, turned the targeted population away and, as the Daily Mail states, “handed them over to Bosnian Serb forces.”

The Srebrenica Massacre is often considered the worst massacre since World War II.

The Telegraph notes that after the Dutch failed to protect thousands of Bosnian Muslims, the Serbian nationalists divided them by gender, executed them and buried them in mass graves. These actions amassed to a genocide.

Mothers of Srebrenica, a group representing 6,000 survivors of the massacre, and families of 10 victims testified in the case Mothers of Srebrenica vs. The Netherlands and the U.N. that the Netherlands and the U.N. are responsible for failing to prevent the killings. However, The Hague upheld that the U.N. is immune to prosecution.

Last week, nearly 20 years after the massacre, The Hague found the Dutch liable for the deaths of 300 of the nearly 10,000 Bosnian Muslims killed. The Netherlands must now compensate those 300 families. The court argued that many of the Bosnian Muslims fled the Dutch compound for the woods, so the Dutch cannot be considered liable for all the deaths. The compensation amount is unknown. Though partial liability represents a partial victory for the victims and survivors, Mothers of Srebenica is currently considering appealing the decision.

According to The Guardian, the president of Mothers of Srebenica reacted by stating, “Obviously the court has no sense of justice. How is it possible to divide victims and tell one mother that the Dutch state is responsible for the death of her son on one side of the wire and not for the son on the other side?”

The ruling does establish a connection between the Dutch’s failure to peacekeep and the massacre, which has not been previously officially recognized as a cause of some of the deaths. The courts ruling places accountability on the peacekeeping missions and proves that the peacekeepers should have known that sending the Bosnian Muslims away would result in their execution.

However, the inability to try the U.N. highlights the inability of the U.N. to be held liable. This translates into an inability for national courts to challenge the U.N.’s actions. Further, this ruling could have significant implications for future peacekeeping missions and the accountability of those missions in war zones. While the ruling only represents a partial success for the families of victims and survivors, the ruling could motivate the U.N. and other nations to pay closer attention to their actions in other conflict regions, such as Syria and the Central African Republic.

– Tara Wilson 

Sources: History Channel, International Business Times, The Guardian, Daily Mail, The Telegraph, International Crimes Databse, Vice, Deutsche Wells
Photo: Wikimedia