Earlier this month, Krsto Dostic was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the widespread and systematic attack against Bosnian civilians.

Former Bosnian Serb soldier

Dostic, a former Bosnian Serb soldier, repeatedly raped a pregnant woman in 1992. The testimony of the victim in the former Yugoslavia led to the conviction of the perpetrator. In addition to incarceration, the state court in Sarajevo also required Dostic to pay €20,450 to the victim for her mental suffering. Many other Muslim women were detained, raped and tortured in the same area of Foca during the war that adopted the use of rape as a weapon of war.

Majority of perpetrators unpunished

While the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia resulted in groundbreaking judgments in favor of prosecuting rape as a crime against humanity, for example the Kunarac case, the majority of perpetrators have gone unpunished.

Help women to fight for their rights

Victims play a vital role in the prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence cases. Yet they often face numerous barriers to participation, including stigmatization within the legal system, a lack of knowledge about the legal system and ongoing psychological effects of the abuse. A holistic approach, which provides victims with the support they need, both in terms of legal assistance and psychological support, can lead women to fight for their own rights.

More support for victims into justice systems

Moreover, as is the case in many countries around the world, the offender-oriented nature of criminal justice results in the lack of victim-friendly legal systems. While victims have gained many rights in the last 20 years, the actual implementation of these rights is often lacking. Additionally, as is the case in the former Yugoslavia and many other conflict-affected regions, prosecutions rarely lead to convictions. As a result of these shortcomings, many women will not access justice. A more victim-centered model should be incorporated into justice systems, emphasizing victim participation, support and proper treatment.

Given the proper attention, other victims may be empowered to participate in proceedings, as was the case in the Dostic hearing, which led to his punishment in addition to greater recognition for the plight of victims during the Bosnian War.

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