Last Updated: Tuesday, 01 December 2015, 13:36 GMT

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Availability of police protection to women victims of domestic violence (1992-1999)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 11 April 2000
Citation / Document Symbol BOS34122.E
Reference 5
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Availability of police protection to women victims of domestic violence (1992-1999), 11 April 2000, BOS34122.E, available at: [accessed 1 December 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

No reports on the availability of police protection for women victims of domestic violence for the period 1992-1995 could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

A representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, in response to a question from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on government provision of humanitarian and legal assistance to women during the war, stated in a 1 February 1994 presentation to the Committee the government was preoccupied with "more immediate and dramatic needs … such as the lack of water, food, fuel, other basic goods, medicines and shelter in the besieged cities."

  Several reports indicate that there was a steep increase in the incidence of domestic violence in Bosnia following the 1995 cease-fire (The Irish Times 30 July 1998; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 20 Dec. 1998; HRCC Oct. 1999). One report cites a variety of reasons, including the following:

difficult transitions when women became heads of households, while men went to war, compounded by tensions when the men returned home, often to underemployment or unemployment; forced migration resulting in the loss of community which might otherwise provide a safety-net for the strains on families; and post-traumatic stress not only on those who fought during the war but those who remained behind (HRCC Oct. 1999).

The 20 December 1998 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report also cites the lack of pre-conflict stress inoculation and insufficient post-conflict psychiatric care for Bosnian army recruits.

A 10 March 1999 UN report on violence against women states that while Bosnia does have a national action plan to respond to domestic violence and does provide support services, it does not have a specific criminal law defining it. According to the HRCC report,

Violence against women is not defined in any domestic law nor have there been any official instructions or policy statements regarding the problem by government at any level. … Given the lack of legal definition of domestic violence, courts are left to decide what measures to take, if any against perpetrators (Oct. 1999).

According to a 24 October 1999 UN report on the human rights situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the statutory shortcomings are exacerbated by the small number of women police officers:

The number of women in the police forces of both [Bosnia and Herzegovina] is alarmingly low: only some 200 female police officers out of more than 11,000 in the Federation and approximately 30 out of 8,500 in the Republika Srpska. This has serious implications for the proper investigation of gender-based violence, such as domestic violence and rape. The problem is compounded by the fact that the police are in general not trained to respond adequately and in a gender-sensitive manner to gender-specific crimes (24 Oct. 1999).

However, a 26 February 1998 AP report states that about 100 police officers in Bosnia-Herzegovina were being given one week of training to learn how to deal with cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, rape, child abuse, prostitution and trafficking of women.

For additional information on domestic violence in Bosnia and the state response, please refer to Country Reports for the years 1997 through 1999.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

The Associated Press (AP). 26 February 1998. "International Instructors Expand Training of Federal Police." (NEXIS)

Human Rights Co-ordination Centre (HRCC). October 1999. HRCC Human Rights Semi-Annual Report April September 1999. [Accessed 10 Apr. 2000]

The Irish Times [Dublin]. 30 July 1998. City Edition. Sarah Marriott. "Turning Violence on the Family: The Reporting of Domestic Violence Incidents Has Soared in the North Since the Ceasefire." (NEXIS)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 20 December 1998. Anna McNamee. "Domestic Violence Hits Hard in Bosnia." (NEXIS)

United Nations. 24 October 1999. (A/54/396, S/1999/1000). Situation of Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, The Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). [Accessed 7 Apr. 2000]

_____. 10 March 1999. (E/CN.4/1999/68). Violence Against Women in the Family: Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, submitted in Accordance with Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1995/85. [Accessed 7 Apr. 2000]

_____. 1 February 1994. (A/49/38). Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Concluding Observations: Bosnia and Herzegovina. [Accessed 6 Apr. 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases.

World News Connection (WNC).

One oral source contacted.

Internet sources including:

Bosnia Institute.

Bosnia Report.

Centre for Civil Society International (CCSI).

Country Reports.

Human Rights Internet (HRI).

International Crisis Group (ICG).

Open Media Research Institute (OMRI).

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Slavic Research Centre.

Transitions [Prague].

UK Home Office country assessments.

United Nations (UNIFEM, UNDP, CEDAW, UNESCO, UNICEF, WomenWatch)

Women's Information Services Project.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld