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CEDAW and women’s rights in Bosnia

August 2, 2013

The Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) reviewed during this session, among others, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the United Kingdom (UK) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). WILPF was actively involved in the review of DRC and also monitored the review of BiH and the UK. Here’s an update about what was said in the review of BiH.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) was discussed during all three sessions. All three countries have a National Action Plan but many elements are still to be improved. In the case of BiH, the inadequate definition of wartime sexual violence in BiH law, the lack of implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the low participation of women’s in the peace, reconciliation and rehabilitation processes worried the Committee.

Ms. Nicole Ameline (Chairperson, CEDAW) and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Ms. Nicole Ameline (Chairperson, CEDAW) and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Lack of tangible results in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In her introductory remarks, Samra Filipović Hadžiabdić, head of the Bosnian delegation, said that implementation of the Convention’s provisions is complicated because Bosnia and Herzegovina is confronted to transition. She added that the decentralized character of the State makes the implementation difficult and that cooperation is the key to implement good equality laws. This was a recurrent argument during the discussions to justify lack of implementation of UNSCR 1325.

She highlighted the adoption of a National Action Plan for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the creation of a monitoring body for its implementation and the ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

An inadequate definition of wartime sexual violence

The head of delegation rapidly made reference to areas where Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to improve. She specifically mentioned that wartime of sexual violence need to be adequately defined in the law. She implicitly referred to an ongoing discussion launched by the United Nations Committee on the Prevention of Torture in its 2011 report. The report places particular emphasis on the disjunction between the definition contained in the Bosnian Criminal Code, in particular in Article 172 and 173, and the definition set by international standards and jurisprudence.

The Committee recommended the amendment of all relevant Criminal Codes “to include a definition of wartime sexual violence in line with international standards, including a specific definition of rape as a war crime and as a crime against humanity, in order to adequately reflect the gravity of the crimes committed.” It also asked BiH to “intensify its efforts to harmonize the jurisprudence and sentencing practices of its courts […] by establishing effective cooperation mechanisms between prosecutors and courts competent to deal with war crimes at all levels of the State party.”

UNSCR 1325 and the participation of women in decision-making

Committee members welcomed the adoption of the National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325. However, they remain worried about the lack of women’s participation in peace, reconciliation and rehabilitation processes as mandated by the UNSCR 1325.

Committee members reflected it in their concluding observations. They recommended that Bosnia and Herzegovina ensures the full implementation of UNSCR 1325 through the State party’s Action Plan and develops concrete measures to enhance the participation of women in decision-making processes relating to post-conflict policies and strategies, taking into account the needs of women and girls, in particular as concerns their social rehabilitation and reintegration.

What to do now?

You can read the concluding observations of the Committee on Bosnia and Herzegovina here.

WILPF and in particular our partners in Bosnia, will keep a very close eye now to monitor the implementation of these and other CEDAW recommendations. The Concluding observations will be an essential advocacy tool to defend and protect human rights in these countries and in particular to implement UNSCR 1325. It will also be very important to refer to these recommendations when BiH is reviewed by other human rights bodies.

We will keep you updated on further outcomes of this process; so stay in touch and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and to subscribe to our newsletter, so that you get the latest news.

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