UN official: Bosnia war rapes must be prosecuted

A U.N. official said Friday that a better job needs to be done in prosecuting rape cases that occurred during the Bosnian war nearly two decades ago, and in other armed conflicts worldwide.

U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallstroem, said only 12 cases have been prosecuted out of an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 victims in Bosnia, which shows "the magnitude of the problem." She called it a "painfully slow" process.

Until 1992, rape was seen as a side effect of wars. But then Bosnian women started to openly speak about the atrocities committed during the 1992-1995 war.

Their testimonies about rape camps sparked outraged around the world and sexual violence was for the first time recognized as a war crime and included in charges raised at the U.N. war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia.

Wallstroem called it a "turning point" and praised the women for "breaking what is called history's greatest silence."

The new approach now effects conflicts around the world.

Congo's former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba is standing trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for murder, rape and pillage committed by members of his private militia in Central African Republic in 2002-2003. In this case, Wallstroem said, the number of rapes exceeds the number of killings.

The legislation is in place in Bosnia and other countries, but the enforcement and the implementation of the laws is slow and insufficient, she said. Laws need to be translated into justice, protection and some kind of reparation, she added.

Just as war victims sometimes receive compensation, so should women who are raped, Wallstroem said.