Bosnia and Herzegovina (Tier 1)

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 and other countries in Europe. Women from Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnian women and young girls were subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Local girls, particularly Roma, were trafficked, using forced marriage, for the purpose of domestic servitude. Roma boys and girls, some as young as 4 years old, were subjected to forced 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 fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government demonstrated sustained law enforcement and victim protection efforts, and set a leading example in a forced begging case in 2010. However, it did not proactively identify trafficking victims, likely resulting in their punishment for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked. Some NGOs reported that trafficking-related corruption significantly hampered the government's ability to vigorously prosecute trafficking and to identify and protect victims.

Recommendations for Bosnia and Herzegovina: Vigorously investigate all potential trafficking cases to ensure trafficking offenders are aggressively prosecuted and punished; ensure identified victims are not punished as a direct result of being trafficked; move towards a more victim-centered, multi-disciplinary response to trafficking by expanding partnerships with specialized NGOs to ensure their role in victim identification and assistance; vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking-related complicity; improve statutory protections for foreign victims to ensure they are not prematurely expelled before the reflection period or involuntarily repatriated; mandate anti-trafficking training for all law enforcement and other front-line responders; and develop comprehensive national level campaigns to educate the public about trafficking and to reduce the local demand for commercial sex.


The Government of Bosnia maintained its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2010. 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 2010, the national government prosecuted and convicted seven trafficking offenders, compared with 11 in 2009. Sentences ranged from one suspended sentence to six years in prison. Three of these sentences were over 4.5 years in length. Courts in the Federation prosecuted and convicted three trafficking offenders, and sentences ranged from six months to 2.5 years' imprisonment. This compares with 11 convicted offenders in 2009. In the Republika Srpska, authorities prosecuted and convicted two trafficking offenders resulting in a suspended sentence and one year's imprisonment; this compares with convicting five trafficking offenders in 2009. Finally in the Brcko District, courts prosecuted and convicted four trafficking offenders with sentences ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 years' imprisonment. Regional experts report that authorities often fail to recognize trafficking cases and prosecute offenders under other criminal statutes, resulting in continued use of suspended sentences for trafficking offenders. The government continued efforts to improve cooperation and coordination through its Anti-Trafficking Strike Force, resulting in improvements in its data collection on trafficking cases. Further, under the leadership of the Strike Force, authorities executed an unprecedented, coordinated operation involving large-scale raids against forced begging rings in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Brcko, and pursued an investigation of the suspected trafficking offenders.

There were continued anecdotal reports of police and other officials' facilitation of trafficking, including by willfully ignoring, exploiting trafficking victims, and actively protecting traffickers or exploiters of trafficking victims in return for payoffs. The government at times failed to vigorously investigate or prosecute such cases during the reporting period. In September 2010, the government suspended an investigation of 17 individuals for charges including the sex trafficking of a child from the Roma community, from which potential victims are especially vulnerable. The investigation, initiated in March 2010, included some government officials. Citing a lack of credible evidence, the state prosecutor determined the individuals under investigation could not be prosecuted for trafficking. However, an NGO providing assistance to the victim, whose exploitation began when she was 14, reported strong indications of trafficking. Furthermore, the government did not report on any progress made in a case involving two local officials under investigation by the state prosecutor for their December 2007 involvement in forced prostitution of three children who were released from custody on February 12, 2009.


The Government of Bosnia sustained its efforts to protect some trafficking victims, though it did not demonstrate concrete improvements in the proactive identification of trafficking victims in 2010. Authorities identified 37 trafficking victims in 2010, compared with 46 victims in 2009. Local experts report police are not using proactive identification techniques to locate victims increasingly kept in more private locations throughout the country. All stakeholders report a lack of clarity in the current procedures used for identification and referral of victims, and local experts report multiple instances of potential victims not being recognized as such. Furthermore, according to local experts, children in prostitution who are over 14 years of age are generally treated as juvenile offenders and can be punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. In July 2010, the government reduced the number of NGOs who receive funding for the reintegration and rehabilitation of victims from seven to two, reporting its intention to focus on building the capacity of two partner NGOs to provide these services for foreign and domestic trafficking victims. However, NGOs with a history of providing assistance to trafficking victims in Bosnia report this decision resulted in their increasingly marginalized role in overall anti-trafficking efforts. The government's funding for victim assistance came from a general fund for all victims of sexual violence, reporting $45,000 for domestic victims and $69,000 for foreign victims of sexual violence. The government identified four foreign trafficking victims in 2010. Authorities reported victims are not entitled to leave the shelters unchaperoned, citing safety concerns.

The government demonstrated regional leadership in conducting large-scale raids against a forced begging ring operating throughout the country in December 2010 and January 2011. In this case, police rescued and referred 10 children to a shelter, rather than simply returning them to their parents, as is the general response in the region, after suspecting their parents were colluding with the ringleaders. The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers and relied on the voluntary cooperation of victims as witnesses in all of its prosecutions in 2010. However, local experts continued to report that the protection of witnesses in Bosnia remained inadequate. The government reported it provided legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution through the provision of short- and long-term residence permits. However, NGOs report that prosecutors initiated 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. In 2010, the government provided five victims with residence permits, compared to six in 2009. One border official reported authorities did not use formalized systematic procedures to identify trafficking victims at border points.


The Bosnian government did not initiate any new anti-trafficking awareness initiatives in 2010, although it continued to partner with NGOs conducting campaigns. The Office of the State Coordinator assisted in the development of anti-trafficking educational materials for school children and continued to serve as a general point of contact for anti-trafficking stakeholders. The government also continued specialized anti-trafficking training of Bosnian troops before their deployment on international peacekeeping missions.


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