An Open Letter to President Clinton

President William J. Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Clinton:

We welcome your past statements of support for women's human rights. As we celebrate International Women's Day this month, we urge you to take concrete action to ensure justice for Bosnian women victims of war.

We are deeply concerned about NATO's failure to arrest all persons indicted for rape and other war crimes in Bosnia and Hercegovina. While rape by soldiers has long been a brutal reality in time of war, in Bosnia it operated as a weapon of war itself. Soldiers, paramilitaries and militiamen raped and sexually assaulted women as part of a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing. In some cases, women were interned in camps and houses and subjected to repeated rape and sexual assault.

By issuing indictments for rape, the international community sent a strong message that there can be no impunity for violence against women in time of war. Yet few of those indicted have so far faced justice. Of the seventy-nine persons indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), fifty remain at large, including twenty-two indicted for rape and sexual assault. Only four indicted suspects charged with rape are in custody.

Successful arrest actions in Prijedor, Vitez and Bijeljina demonstrate that the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) has both the means and the mandate to apprehend indicted war crimes suspects. While the recent voluntary surrenders by three suspects at the urging of Bosnian Serb Premier Milorad Dodik are encouraging, most indicted suspects in Bosnia reside in areas under the control of Radovan Karadzic and other hardliners, who persist in their refusal to cooperate with the ICTY. Unless NATO arrests indictees in these areas, it is extremely unlikely that they will ever stand trial.

You and your administration's leadership helped end the war in Bosnia. The establishment of the ICTY under U.S. leadership created a real hope for justice in the country. Yet, that hope will remain unfulfilled until all persons charged with rape and other war crimes face trial for their alleged crimes. We appeal to you to exercise U.S. influence as a leading member of NATO to ensure the immediate apprehension of all indicted war crimes suspects in Bosnia.