Bosnia and Herzegovina is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Bosnian women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within the country in private residences, motels, and gas stations. There is an increasing problem of Roma boys and girls being subjected to forced begging by organized criminal groups. Victims from Serbia, Bulgaria, Germany, and Ukraine were subjected to trafficking within the country. Bosnian victims are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Spain, Italy, and other countries in Europe.
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 enhanced its efforts to protect victims of trafficking through improved funding levels for anti-trafficking activities in the national budget and amended legislation to enable victims of trafficking who are in the country on a humanitarian visa to obtain employment. The government convicted and sentenced one public official to prison for a trafficking-related offense. However, the government has not yet amended sub-national laws to criminalize all forms of trafficking consistent with national and international law. Police complicity in trafficking-related offenses and authorities’ lack of sensitivity to child victims of sex trafficking reportedly impeded efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable.
Recommendations for Bosnia and Herzegovina: Vigorously investigate sex and labor trafficking and hold trafficking offenders accountable through prosecutions and appropriate sentences; harmonize sub-national laws to explicitly criminalize all forms of trafficking consistent with the state law and the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute officials complicit in trafficking-related crimes; ensure child victims of trafficking are not punished for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; include labor inspectors in the national referral mechanism with a goal to increase identification of male victims and labor trafficking; and increase funding for reintegration services for domestic victims.
The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrated modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year, convicting one official for a trafficking-related offense and cooperating on transnational trafficking investigations. Sex trafficking and forced labor are prohibited through Article 186 of the criminal code, which prescribes penalties of three to 10 years’ imprisonment; the criminal code was amended during the reporting period to increase minimum sentences. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The national government convicted one trafficking offender during the reporting period, a minor improvement over no convictions in 2011. The state prosecutor’s office reported new investigations of eight trafficking suspects and ongoing investigations of 29 suspects.
Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two entities within the state, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. Each entity has political, legislative, and judicial authority. The Brcko District is a self-governing unit under the jurisdiction of the state. The government has yet to harmonize sub-national laws with the state anti-trafficking law and the 2000 UN TIP Protocol to explicitly criminalize all forms of trafficking. In the absence of such statutes, some trafficking offenders were prosecuted under the Enticement to Prostitution statute in Article 210 of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s criminal code, and in Article 207 of Brcko District’s criminal code. Article 198 of the criminal code of Republika Srpska covers pimping and forced prostitution but is not consistent with the definition of human trafficking under international law. Cantonal prosecutors’ offices within the Federation prosecuted two trafficking offenders in Sarajevo and one in Tuzla for enticement to prostitution. Courts sentenced two offenders in Bihac each to three months’ imprisonment and acquitted one defendant. Courts in Republika Srpska convicted one offender under Article 198 and sentenced him to a fine and 26 months in prison, gave one offender a one-year suspended sentence, and acquitted one defendant. The state prosecutor’s office accepted one suspected trafficking case referred by the Banja Luka prosecutor’s office in Republika Srpska but returned another case referred by the Brcko District prosecutor’s office. Sub-national laws against enticement to prostitution permit police to charge children age 14 and older with prostitution; while no such prosecutions of exploited children were documented during the reporting period, observers reported that police continued to treat child victims of sex trafficking as offenders and subjected them to interrogations.
There was one reported conviction of a government official for alleged involvement in trafficking-related offenses; a former social welfare official was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for misusing his position to sexually exploit a child. Allegations of police and other official complicity in trafficking, particularly at the local level, continued; observers alleged that local police ignored or actively protected traffickers and their customers, often in exchange for bribes. The national anti-trafficking coordinator, in cooperation with an NGO and with international funding, provided specialized training to officials on how to identify victims of forced labor. Judicial centers trained new judges and prosecutors on human trafficking, and law enforcement academies trained border police on how to identify trafficking. The government cooperated with the Serbian government on an investigation into ten Serbian victims exploited in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The government improved efforts to protect victims of trafficking, providing stable funding for services and permitting victims of trafficking with a humanitarian visa to work legally in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The government identified 39 victims of trafficking in 2012, compared with 34 victims in 2011. Ten of the identified victims were subjected to forced begging. Nineteen of the 39 identified victims were children, including three boys. All of the adult victims identified were women. The national referral mechanism did not incorporate labor inspectors, hampering efforts to identify and assist victims of forced labor. The government allocated the equivalent of $100,000 to implement the national strategy and action plan in 2013: equivalent to approximately $69,000 for assistance to foreign trafficking victims, and the equivalent to approximately $46,000 for assistance to domestic trafficking victims, making the anti-trafficking budget a regular budget line item, and providing more assistance to NGOs. This significantly improved the government’s ability to address trafficking compared to the previous year, during which the government drew the equivalent to approximately $46,000, from a general fund for all victims of sexual violence and did not fund services for foreign victims of trafficking. During the reporting period, seven NGOs received small grants to meet basic needs of victims of trafficking. Three NGO shelters assisted 18 child and three adult victims of trafficking; the victims were not permitted to leave the shelter without a chaperone. A restructuring of the national interagency anti-trafficking taskforce to increase expert participation led to a marked improvement in the taskforce’s investigation tactics.
Victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina are permitted a 30-day reflection period, time in which they could recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement; two victims took advantage of the reflection period in 2012. The government amended legislation during the reporting period to allow victims of trafficking who hold a humanitarian visa to work legally in the country and to count time spent under such a visa towards permanent residency. Four victims of trafficking requested and received residence permits during the reporting period, which was equal to the number of victims issued such permits in 2011. Observers reported that once prosecutors determined a victim’s testimony was not needed, or when they closed a case due to lack of evidence, the government often initiated deportation procedures against victims of trafficking without providing them adequate assistance or arranging for their safe repatriation. The government rarely referred foreign victims to legal service providers, despite agreements with an NGO to provide such services. There were no reports of adult victims being detained or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of their being trafficked.
The government made moderate efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. The government funded a grant equivalent to approximately $6,700 for an NGO anti-trafficking public awareness campaign, targeted to young people seeking employment outside of the country. The national anti-trafficking coordinator continued to provide bi-annual training on victim identification and referral for staff at regional day centers for street children that serve Roma and other populations vulnerable to forced begging. The Ministry of Security, in cooperation with an NGO, launched an anti-trafficking website. The government supported a modest prevention campaign in secondary schools targeting demand for commercial sex acts. The government organized an evaluation of the 2008-2012 national action plan to inform a new plan and strategy to combat trafficking. At the end of the reporting period, the Council of Ministers adopted the Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a new national action plan for 2013-2015. The strategy aimed to strengthen criminal prosecution of traffickers and improve victim protection, prevention, and partnerships with NGOs. The Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with the OSCE, maintained a training program for peacekeepers on identifying and reporting human trafficking.