Office of the High Commissioner in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Protection for the rights of persons trafficked into Bosnia
for the purpose of forced prostitution
Trafficking in persons, particularly for the purpose of forced
prostitution, is not a new phenomenon in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The problem was
recognized as early as 1993 and since then the numbers involved, the extent of
control exercised by organized crime, and the market itself have increased
considerably. The situation has also been exacerbated by the poor state of the
economy. Over 40% of the population are unemployed, including a disproportionate
number of women. As a result, there is increasing evidence of the trafficking of
women out of Bosnia to third countries, and also within the country itself,
particularly between the two Entities.
To date there has been no real attempt by either the local
police or the government to confront the problem. Nor has the international
community taken action. OHCHR has therefore taken the lead in coordinating those
various agencies with appropriate mandates to recognize the need to address
trafficking. The priority in phase one was to ensure the security and protection
of the rights of individuals in need of assistance. The objective of Phase two,
which overlaps chronologically with Phase one, is to transfer responsibility to
the state with the support of the NGO community.
The programme has already resulted in changes in the choices
available to trafficked persons. There have been policy changes in the approach
of the international community and work is ongoing with the government and the
local police to reach a greater understanding of the nature of the problem, and
the need to respect human rights.
The involvement of other UN agencies has been a vital component.
The UNMIBH, IOM and, to a lesser extent, both UNHCR and UNICEF have been working
closely with OHCHR to develop the strategy now in place. The approach can be
replicated in other areas where trafficking is a problem.
The second phase of the programme, already under way, involves
collaboration with NGO's to build capacity for working with trafficked persons,
in areas such as running shelters and providing health care, counselling, legal
advice and representation. Meanwhile, discussions are also under way with the
responsible ministries on the issues of legal reform, the provision of places of
safety, mechanisms for safe repatriation when requested and support for the work
of the NGOs.
This initiative is the first to develop such extensive
interagency cooperation - due, in part, to the Dayton peace agreement and the
mandates it created.
The strategy involved included:
· meeting with
relevant bodies to establish the extent of the problem
· setting up a trafficking group
of relevant international agencies to coordinate assistance and information
· training in best practice for
dealing with the issue
· issuing guidelines for the
International Police Force on how to work with victims of trafficking from a
human rights perspective
· using the media to disseminate
information for the public
· training for prosecutors by
OHCHR, Council of Europe and international NGOs
· conducting a dialogue with the
government about its responsibility.
A key element in the success of this initiative has been the use
of a human rights perspective as the basis for the strategy. Others include the
commitment of international organizations to the issue and the very strong
mandates of UNMIBH and the OHR under the Dayton Peace Agreement.
Although the US Government gave financial support to IOM, the
project overall has been insufficiently funded and is dependent on financial
contributions from individuals. This will affect the long-term sustainability of
To date, the project has:
· helped over 40
women in their attempts to leave the places where they were held against their
will and to return home. Most received legal advice and health care.
· collated evidence on the
extent of trafficking, the routes taken and the criminal networks involved.
· raised general awareness of
the issues involved in trafficking through the use of media, training for NGOs,
government officials and the judiciary.
· helped prevent the prosecution
of women for prostitution where there is evidence of trafficking.
· established a moratorium on
all deportations pending legislative reform.