[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA (TIER 2)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Bosnia and Herzegovina is primarily a source for women and girls trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation, though it is also a destination and transit country for women and girls trafficked to Western Europe for the same purpose. Some victims from Serbia, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Iraq, and Russia are trafficked into Bosnia and Herzegovina via Serbia or Montenegro for commercial sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking continued to increase in 2008, as the majority of identified victims were Bosnian, and more than half of them were children. There were reports that some girls, particularly Roma, were trafficked for the purpose of forced marriage. Reports of Roma children trafficked for forced labor continued. Traffickers continued to force some victims to apply for asylum in order to keep their victims in the country legally.

The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government continued to provide funding to NGOs to protect and assist identified trafficking victims. However, some convicted trafficking offenders received suspended sentences. Moreover, the government failed to follow through on investigations of trafficking-related complicity initiated in 2006 and 2007.

Recommendations for Bosnia and Herzegovina: Vigorously investigate and prosecute all suspected acts of trafficking-related complicity; take steps to reduce the number of suspended sentences given to convicted traffickers; increase law enforcement training to ensure that standard operating procedures regarding trafficked children and victim referrals are implemented consistently throughout Bosnia; and train local officials to use available anti-trafficking legislation.

The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina sustained moderate anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2008. However, the government failed to vigorously address trafficking-related complicity, and some convicted trafficking offenders continued to receive suspended sentences. The Government of Bosnia 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 grave crimes, such as rape. Local level entities in Bosnia often use “Enticement to Prostitution” laws to prosecute trafficking, which carry lesser penalties. In 2008, state and local level entities investigated a total of 94 suspected trafficking cases, 26 of which had been initiated during the preceding year. Out of the 34 traffickers prosecuted to conviction, state and local-level courts imposed prison sentences on 20 trafficking offenders. Sentences ranged from three months to six years’ imprisonment. The remaining 14 convicted traffickers received suspended sentences.

There were continued reports of police and other officials’ involvement in trafficking, including by willfully ignoring or actively protecting traffickers or exploiters of trafficking victims in return for payoffs. The government failed to adequately follow up on two previously reported investigations of official complicity in trafficking. A February 2006 investigation involving two State Border Police employees has not been completed. Similarly, a December 2007 case of the alleged involvement of three local officials in the forced prostitution of three children continues to be under investigation by the State Prosecutor’s office. Although two of the nine officials accused of involvement in this case are in police custody, no official indictments have been made.

The government of Bosnia sustained its efforts to protect identified victims of trafficking in 2008. The government continued to delegate victim assistance services to six local NGOs that provided shelter, medial and psychological assistance to foreign and domestic victims. During the reporting period, the government committed $22,400 for the care of domestic victims and allocated $133,333 for assistance to foreign victims of trafficking. NGOs were required to apply for funding on a victim per capita basis. The government ensures that victims have access to shelter and services provided by NGOs, and it employed procedures for identifying and referring both foreign and domestic victims. Twenty-nine trafficking victims were identified in 2009, a decline from 50 identified in 2007 and 71 identified in 2006. Twenty-two victims received assistance in Bosnian NGO shelters in 2008. Throughout the reporting period, the State Coordinator’s Office organized training for prosecutors, social workers, and other ministries on standard operating procedures for children who are victims of trafficking; however, more training is needed to ensure these procedures are consistently implemented. The government encouraged victims to assist in the prosecution of traffickers. In 2008, approximately nine victims actually testified against their traffickers. The government 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 humanitarian visas. In 2008, two trafficking victims received residence permits on humanitarian grounds. Police and border officers use a screening questionnaire to evaluate potential victims among vulnerable populations. Identified victims were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked.

The Government of Bosnia funded an NGO’s operation of an anti-trafficking hotline throughout the reporting period, and the Office of the State Coordinator continued to coordinate and supervise an NGO-funded comprehensive campaign targeted at young people seeking employment abroad that included TV spots, billboards, and pamphlets. The government did not conduct any awareness campaigns specifically aimed at reducing demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government continued to give specialized trafficking awareness training to Bosnian troops participating in international peacekeeping missions before deployment.