Newly Launched UK Experts Team against Sexual Violence to Conduct a Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina

A conference was held in Wilton Park, Sussex from 12 to 14 November 2012 under the organization of the United Kingdom (UK) Foreign and Commonwealth Office in order to lay the groundwork, shape and develop the activities of the newly established UK initiative to fight against rape and sexual violence in conflict.
The conference hosted around 60 participants coming from 23 countries and representing a considerable number of different stakeholders such as UN agencies and international organizations, national politicians, independent experts, civil society organizations, prosecutors, judges and medical personnel working with survivors. Among the present were five
representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), including TRIAL’s Human Rights Coordinator, Lejla Mamut and the Directress of Medica Zenica, Sabiha Husić.

The conference addressed a number of topics related to sexual violence during armed conflicts, such as early warning indicators; international standards for effective investigations and prosecutions of cases on sexual violence; international efforts in combating and preventing rape during armed conflict; best practices in dealing with survivors of sexual violence and the importance of raising awareness about this crime. During the conference, the Directress of Medica Zenica intervened on the organisation’s best practices in providing services, protection and support for witnesses and victims of sexual violence with the aim of ensuring successful
investigation and prosecution of sexual violence in conflict. Sabiha Husić also gave an interview for a video which has been published on the Wilton Park website to help raise public awareness on the situation of survivors in BiH.

The representatives from BiH at Wilton Park gave a number of interventions during the different sessions and working groups of the conference raising the main issues related to the situation of survivors in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the final day of the conference, an informal meeting with United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Angeline Jolie gave TRIAL and Medica Zenica a further opportunity to highlight the necessity to support victims of sexual violence in BiH and to suggest ways in which the UK initiative might represent an effective tool in addressing some of these most pressing issues. A similar message was forwarded to the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague during the last session of the conference.

Angelina Jolie

At the end of the conference the Secretary announced that BiH is one of the priority countries for the intervention of the Experts Team, whose members will be visiting the country in early 2013. TRIAL, as well as other BIH civil society organizations, remains committed to further explore with the members of the Team the possibility for any project or intervention that could bring about an improvement in the situation of survivors of war-time rape and sexual violence in BiH.
British Ambassador Nigel Casey thanked all the participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina for making such a strong contribution to the success of the Wilton Park Conference. ‘Following on from the Foreign Secretary’s meeting with victims’ organisations in Sarajevo last month, I’m delighted that Bosnia and Herzegovina was so well represented at this event, and that the
experience gained from tackling this issue here has already helped to shape the way the UK Government will take forward this global initiative. I’m also very pleased that Bosnia and Herzegovina will be one of the first countries to be visited early next year by the newly-created UK Experts Team. This will be an opportunity to look further at how we can help support the efforts of those working hard to tackle both the appalling legacy of wartime sexual violence, and the ongoing problem of violence against women in BiH.’