Rape, Silence and Denial
It is estimated that between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped during the 1990s conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The European Council first published these numbers in its report at the end of 1993, barely eight months into the war. While indicative, these figures remain an approximation due to a number of factors, including: timing, political interference, migration, displacement, killings, disappearance of victims, trauma and shame. Almost 20 years after the cessation of the war there is still no accurate data on the numbers of women raped and tortured in BiH today. Indeed, the number of rapes that actually happened will never be known (Thomas & Ralph, 1999, p. 203). The suggested estimates do not encompass women who were raped and tortured and then killed, women who disappeared, and women who never reported the crime. However, the fact that it is not possible to identify reliable data regarding wartime rape is not something unique to BiH. For example, the precise number of ‘comfort women’ who were sexually enslaved in military brothels in Japanese-occupied areas, both before and during World War II, likewise remains unknown (and is also the subject of much heated debate: Yoshiaki, 1995). While ambiguous, statistics released by the European Council are often taken for granted and have become accepted fact. The statistics can be found in almost all official local and international documents, studies and media outlets that analyse the wartime rape in BiH. It is still questionable how many women have survived wartime rape, but according to Meznaric (1994): [o]ne could say that there is agreement in the sources concerning several important points: (1) mass rape had at least several thousand victims; (2) there have been many rapes of young girls between the ages of seven and fourteen; (3) rape is often committed in the presence of the victim’s parents/children and generally the rape victim is raped by several assailants.
Transitional Justice and Reconciliation: Lessons from the Balkans
Human Rights Law