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BIRN BiH Director Anisa Suceska-Vekic presented the results of the organization’s work over the course of the eight past years, pointing out that BIRN simultaneously worked as a media agency, advocacy organisation and a service for training of the media and judicial institutions.
“Working as a media agency, we report on all war crime trials and transitional justice processes via our web portal, as well as radio and TV magazines. Our advocacy activities consist of campaigns, the latest one being ‘Stop Censoring War Crimes’ targeted against the anonymisation of court decisions. Finally, we conduct trainings of the media and judicial institutions in local communities with the aim of facilitating their co-operation,” said Suceska-Vekic.
Representatives of judicial institutions and international organisations in BiH, who attended the meeting, discussed the challenges facing prosecutions and courts in processing of the remaining war-crimes investigations, many of which pertain to non-processed rape and sexual abuse cases.
Suceska-Vekic said that, due to the marginalisation of victims of sexual war crimes, as well as the fact that they are stigmatised in our society, BIRN BiH decided to focus its work within the next three years on this specific problem.
“War victims of crimes of sexual nature live on the edge of existence. They are condemned by the society and the state…They are surrounded by a wall of silence. We should speak more about the difficult situation in which they are. Lack of information among victims on how they can approach prosecutors’ offices represents a big problem. Therefore, one of our goals is to encourage victims to testify,” said Erna Mackic, Editor-in-Chief of BIRN BiH.
Within its three-year strategy BIRN BiH intends to create a specialised database, which will be uploaded on its webpage, of all completed second instance cases, covering war crimes of a sexual nature, and produce an educational film about the problems facing rape victims. By depicting a reconstruction of a court process, the film will, at the same time, serve the purpose of encouraging victims to testify.
Almir Alic, Representative of the Outreach Office with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in Sarajevo, said that an initiative had been made to publish the BIRN’s database at the Tribunal’s information centres along with the institution’s archives.
Ellen Van Reesch, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the Netherlands in BiH, said that civil society organisations, which possessed expertise, like BIRN, should become a part of the Structural Dialogue on Judicial Reform between BiH and the EU.
Manuela Hodzic, Spokesperson of the Court of BiH, supported the new strategy of BIRN BiH, adding that the State Court was ready for co-operation regarding this issue.