Bosnia and Herzegovina

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 2 Watch List

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, children, and persons with developmental disabilities 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. Roma boys and girls are subjected to forced labor, including forced begging and forced marriage by local organized criminal groups. In some cases of forced marriage, girls as young as 12-years-old have been subjected to domestic servitude and had their passports withheld. In past years, victims from Serbia, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, and Ukraine were subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor 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 allocated funding for anti-trafficking activities in the national budget. Both the Brcko district and the Republika Srpska amended their anti-trafficking laws. Despite these measures, the government did not show progress in convicting trafficking offenders or identifying and protecting trafficking victims; therefore, Bosnia and Herzegovina is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The government has not yet amended all sub-national laws to criminalize all forms of trafficking consistent with national and international law. It significantly decreased its identification of victims, representing a lack of vigorousness regarding investigations, victim identification, and prosecutions by relevant agencies. Law enforcement and judiciary agencies failed to prioritize forced labor and forced begging as criminal activities.

Recommendations for Bosnia and Herzegovina:

Vigorously investigate sex and labor trafficking and hold trafficking offenders accountable through prosecutions and appropriate sentences; increase victim identification; harmonize all sub-national laws to explicitly criminalize all forms of trafficking consistent with the state law and the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; increase assistance and protection for all victims of trafficking, regardless of their cooperation with law enforcement or outcome of prosecutions; increase efforts to provide training to officials on identification of victims of labor trafficking; train all front-line officers on the identification of victims, including law enforcement, social welfare officers, child centers, medical staff, and labor inspectors; include labor inspectors in the national referral mechanism with a goal of increasing identification of male victims and labor trafficking victims; ensure that child victims are afforded adequate care during the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, including protection from threats and a coherent, unified system of victim care throughout trial; enhance transparency regarding victim protection, including by better integrating Roma groups into decision-making processes; make stronger efforts to prevent trafficking by reducing the demand for commercial sex acts and the use of the services of trafficking victims; and provide a reflection and recovery period for all victims of trafficking.

Prosecution

The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina improved anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year by increasing prosecutions and convictions throughout the state; although one of the entities and the Brcko District harmonized their laws with national and international law in 2013, law enforcement and judiciary agencies failed to prioritize forced labor and forced begging as criminal activities, and accountability for traffickers remained weak. Bosnia and Herzegovina prohibits sex trafficking and forced labor through Article 186 of the criminal code, which prescribes penalties of three to 10 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2013, the state prosecutor’s office initiated investigations into alleged crimes committed by six sex trafficking suspects, compared with eight in 2012; investigations involving 28 suspects remained pending from previous reporting periods. The state prosecutor’s office initiated prosecutions against five alleged trafficking offenders, including one for forced labor, compared to at least one prosecution in 2012. The national government convicted two trafficking offenders during the reporting period, compared to one conviction in 2012, and sentenced each offender to four years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking.

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. Because the Federation’s amendments were rejected, the government has yet to fully harmonize sub-national laws with the state anti-trafficking law and the 2000 UN TIP Protocol to explicitly criminalize all forms of trafficking. The harmonization addresses an important jurisdictional objective, as only cases with an international aspect can be prosecuted at the state level. The entity-level authorities address domestic offenses. In the absence of such trafficking-specific statutes, some trafficking offenders were prosecuted under an old Enticement to Prostitution statute, Article 210 of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s criminal code. During the reporting period, Republika Srpska authorities revised Article 198a of their criminal code to bring it into compliance with the definition of trafficking under international law. During the reporting period, Article 207 Enticement to Prostitution of the criminal code of the Brcko District was amended to include Article 207(a), which criminalizes trafficking and prescribes a minimum of five years’ and maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Cantonal (local) prosecutors’ offices within the Federation investigated 14 alleged trafficking offenders and initiated prosecutions for eight persons, compared with three in 2012. During the reporting period, Federation courts convicted five trafficking offenders, greater than the number of convictions in 2012. Two traffickers were sentenced to imprisonment and three received suspended sentences. Courts sentenced the two offenders to 1.5 years’ imprisonment. Courts in the Republika Srpska investigated one alleged offender and initiated prosecution for one person; courts convicted one offender under Article 198, compared with two in 2012. The Brcko District investigated three persons and initiated prosecutions for two alleged offenders. One offender was convicted under Article 207 and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for forced labor.

Training for government officials focused on recognition, investigation, and prosecution of trafficking. Corruption remained a problem, and police reportedly accepted bribes in exchange for information concerning upcoming raids. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during this reporting period.

Protection

The government’s efforts to protect victims of trafficking decreased during the reporting period as victim identifications dropped to the lowest level ever, reflecting the lack of vigorous investigation, identification, and prosecution by relevant agencies. The national referral mechanism did not incorporate labor inspectors, hampering efforts to identify and assist victims of forced labor. The government identified 16 victims of trafficking in 2013, a steep decrease from 39 victims in 2012. Of the identified victims, 13 were subjected to forced labor and three were victims of sex trafficking. Nine of the 16 identified victims were children, five were adult females, and two were adult males. Government experts noted the number of identified victims was significantly lower than the estimated incidence of trafficking. During the reporting period, seven NGOs received small grants from the government to meet basic needs of victims of trafficking. NGOs reported a lack of transparency in the allocation of government funds, particularly with regard to Roma victims. The government referred six victims of trafficking to shelters; the child victims were accommodated with their families; and some victims declined assistance. Foreign victims were permitted to permanently leave the shelter after obtaining approval; domestic minor victims were permitted to leave after obtaining the consent of a guardian; and domestic adult victims were permitted to leave the shelter at any time. The victims were not permitted to leave the shelter without a chaperone.

The government offered domestic and foreign victims of trafficking reintegration services and access to psychological assistance, medical care, vocational training, legal counseling, and aid, provided they reside in recognized or authorized shelters. Assistance to victims was provided by social welfare centers throughout the country; victims of trafficking who were no longer in shelters were not offered these rehabilitation or reintegration services or given access to the labor market. Six victims of trafficking received assistance. The government rarely referred foreign victims to legal service providers, despite agreements with an NGO to do so. Experts expressed concerns about interview techniques used with child trafficking victims, noting a victim was interviewed in front of her suspected exploiter. Foreign victims of trafficking are eligible for a humanitarian visa for a legal, temporary stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Prior to requesting such a visa, victims are permitted a 30-day period to determine whether they want to request a visa. The government allows 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; there is no special visa for trafficking victims. In practice, temporary residency permits were granted only to victims whose cases were prosecuted. One victim of trafficking requested and received a residence permit during the reporting period; the two victims who received residence permits in 2012 were subsequently repatriated. 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. NGOs reported the state prosecutor improperly required proof of recruitment as part of a child trafficking case in order to charge the case as trafficking. Experts documented problems with the continuity of victim care; after indictment, victim-witness support from law enforcement and prosecutors ended, and the court took over any support. This lack of continuity discouraged victims’ participation and was confusing, as victims did not receive timely updates on the status of their case. Furthermore, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) documented that child victims were intimidated during trials and that authorities did not use available legal protections to shield them from threats. There were no reports of victims being detained or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of their being trafficked. Only Brcko District contains a provision exempting trafficking victims from prosecution for unlawful acts.

Prevention

The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina made moderate efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. In 2013, the government co-organized several activities and public awareness campaigns on the prevention of human trafficking and trafficking of forced labor, especially forced begging and domestic servitude. The government allocated the equivalent of approximately $7,000 for activities associated with the 2013 European anti-trafficking day, which included a panel discussion with high school students on trafficking prevention. In cooperation with an NGO, the State Coordinator expanded existing anti-trafficking monitoring teams, which coordinated the implementation of the national action plan and incorporated mental health professionals into the team. The monitoring team produced guidelines to mental health centers on working with victims of trafficking. The government adopted a new national action plan for 2013-2015. The government allocated the equivalent of approximately $133,000 to implement the national strategy and action plan in 2014, compared with $100,000 in 2013. The government, in cooperation with the OSCE, maintained a training program for peacekeepers on identifying and reporting human trafficking. The government undertook some modest public prevention campaigns targeting the demand for commercial sex acts, although the GRETA report concluded these efforts were weak.