Last Updated: Monday, 15 January 2018, 13:43 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Bosnia and Herzegovina

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Bosnia and Herzegovina, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 16 January 2018]
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.


Bosnia and Herzegovina is a source, destination and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Bosnian victims are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Azerbaijan, Slovenia, Croatia, Spain and other countries in Europe. Bosnian women and young girls, as well as women and girls from Ukraine, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, and Germany are subjected to sex trafficking within Bosnia. Local girls, particularly Roma, and girls from other countries in the region were trafficked for forced marriage or for domestic servitude. Experts reported a significant number of Roma boys and girls, some as young as four years old, were forced into begging by organized crime groups. An NGO reported children as young as 12 years old are subjected to sex trafficking by traffickers who use blackmail, gang rape, and drugs as tools of coercion and control.

The Government of Bosnia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Bosnia's government failed to demonstrate appreciable progress in its prosecution and protection efforts during the year, partly due to a lack of political support for anti-trafficking activities and NGOs and lack of a national budget during the reporting period. While courts in local jurisdictions convicted some trafficking offenders under trafficking-related laws, the Bosnian government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any trafficking offenders in 2011. The Bosnian government did not demonstrate concrete improvements in the identification or protection of trafficking victims during the year, and it provided little support to NGOs providing critical care and assistance to trafficking victims. Finally, the government did not prosecute any cases of officials' complicity with trafficking, which some country experts and NGOs report significantly hampered the government's overall anti-trafficking efforts.

Recommendations for Bosnia and Herzegovina: Vigorously investigate sex and labor trafficking cases and aggressively prosecute and punish trafficking offenders; continue efforts to harmonize state and sub-state laws to explicitly criminalize all forms of trafficking; vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking-related complicity; ensure identified victims, including Bosnian children older than 14 and children subjected to forced begging, are not punished as a direct result of being trafficked; empower and institutionalize support for monitoring teams, as well as other front-line responders in Bosnia, to increase detection and referral of trafficking victims, including victims of forced begging and adult men; continue steps to intensify partnerships with NGOs and formalize their role in the Anti-Trafficking Strike Force; ensure adequate funding for NGOs to facilitate their ability to provide critical care and assistance, including specialized legal assistance, for domestic and foreign victims; ensure potential trafficking victims arrested for prostitution are identified and referred for care; carry out anti-trafficking training to sensitize law enforcement, the judiciary, and social workers to victims of this serious human rights abuse; and develop national campaigns to educate Bosnian officials and the public about all forms of trafficking, and to reduce demand for commercial sex.


The Government of Bosnia's anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts diminished significantly in 2011. The national government prohibits trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation through Article 186 of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties of up to 10 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2011, the state-level government failed to convict any trafficking offenders; this represents a decline from the seven convictions of trafficking offenders in 2010 and 11 in 2009. In the absence of sub-national trafficking laws, courts in local jurisdictions used "enticement to prostitution" laws to address these cases. The Federation convicted two traffickers for the commercial sexual exploitation of eight children, some under 14 years of age, and sentenced them to one year and three months and two years and four months imprisonment. Courts in the Brcko District prosecuted six other child prostitution offenders, under an "enticement to prostitution" statute, convicting five offenders with sentences ranging from six months to three and a half years. Local jurisdictions convicted nine offenders in 2010. During the year, the government developed draft amendments to harmonize national and sub-national trafficking laws to explicitly criminalize all forms of trafficking; however, it has yet to officially amend these laws. In August 2011, the Deputy State Prosecutor requested local law enforcement agencies not to prosecute any victims for crimes committed as a result of their being trafficked and to refer all trafficking cases to the national government; local law enforcement entities referred 19 cases involving 22 suspects to national authorities. The national government, however, did not initiate any new trafficking investigations and experts reported that national prosecutors demonstrated a reluctance to pursue trafficking charges or identify trafficking victims during the year. Most trafficking cases continued to be prosecuted at the local level; these local prosecutors and courts lack understanding of trafficking and community actors report that sentencing is influenced at the local level by local judges' familiarity with the trafficking suspects.

There were continued reports of police and other government employees' facilitation of trafficking, including by willfully ignoring trafficking offenses, exploiting trafficking victims, and actively protecting traffickers or exploiters of trafficking victims in return for payoffs. The national government did not vigorously prosecute any cases of trafficking complicity in 2011. Moreover, the government did not report any progress in an investigation of two local officials started by the state prosecutor for their December 2007 involvement in the forced prostitution of three children.


The Government of Bosnia did not demonstrate appreciable progress in the identification or protection of trafficking victims in 2011. Furthermore, it provided limited assistance to victims and did not provide any financial support for one of Bosnia's major trafficking shelters. Authorities identified 34 trafficking victims in 2011, compared with 37 in 2010 and 46 victims in 2009. Local experts report that the actual number of trafficking victims in Bosnia is increasing and that police are not using proactive identification techniques to locate victims. Local level authorities' misunderstanding of and prejudice towards trafficking victims contributed to low levels of victim identification, as well as likely inadvertent punishment of victims for crimes committed as a result of their being trafficked. Monitoring teams established by an outside donor in a prior year to improve victim identification and referral received no funding or support from the government; these teams did not increase victim identification. Children in prostitution over 14 years of age continued to be treated as juvenile offenders, and were likely punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. During the year, a Macedonian child allegedly subjected to forced marriage was detained by the Aliens Unit for several months. One NGO reported that children, who are likely forced into begging by their parents and criminal groups, were treated as offenders rather than being treated as trafficking victims. During the year, two NGO shelters assisted a combined 21 Bosnian trafficking victims, 18 of whom were children. Authorities reported that victims were not permitted to leave the shelters unchaperoned, purportedly due to safety concerns. The government reported that it used a general fund for all victims of sexual violence – funding in the amount of $46,000 – to assist trafficking victims. However, country experts report the government did not provide sufficient funds to NGOs providing critical and comprehensive care to trafficking victims in 2011. Additionally, the government failed to provide any funding for the care and assistance of foreign trafficking victims in 2011; NGOs assisting seven foreign victims funded the assistance for these victims.

The government reported it provided legal alternatives to foreign trafficking victims' removal to countries where they face hardship or retribution, by providing short- and long-term residence permits to victims. However, prosecutors reportedly continued to initiate deportation procedures for foreign trafficking victims without arranging for their safe and responsible return after deciding there was a lack of evidence or if the victim's testimony was not needed. Also, the government failed to refer foreign trafficking victims to NGO service providers. The government provided four trafficking victims with temporary residency permits in 2011 in order to facilitate their assistance in criminal investigations and prosecutions. The government reportedly encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, however local experts continued to report that legal assistance and overall protection of witnesses in Bosnia was limited and inadequate. Some anti-trafficking NGOs with a history of providing assistance to trafficking victims continued to report the need for more effective partnering with the government to improve victim identification, referral and care.


The Bosnian government's limited trafficking prevention efforts depended on a few key motivated actors, including the National Anti-trafficking Coordinator, whose office failed to receive adequate funding due to the lack of a regular national budget during the year. The Office of the State Coordinator continued to serve as a general point of contact for anti-trafficking stakeholders; during the year, the Coordinator took important steps to increase partnerships with civil society. Furthermore, the Coordinator, in partnership with an NGO, continued to provide victim identification training to staff members in day centers frequented by Roma and other vulnerable groups to trafficking. In honor of Europe's anti-trafficking day, the National Coordinator and NGOs set up awareness exhibits and radio and television ads in Tuzla, Mostar, and Sarajevo aimed at decreasing demand for commercial sex acts. During the year, the government initiated a draft of its third National Action Plan (NAP) on trafficking. The government did not report transparently on its anti-trafficking efforts, but commissioned a university with donor funds to evaluate its anti-trafficking efforts; the resulting recommendations will inform its new NAP. The government also continued specialized anti-trafficking training of Bosnian troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

Search Refworld