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Source: Commision of Experts (IHRLI) Report

F. Rape and other forms of sexual assault 59/

232. Throughout the various phases of the armed conflicts in the
former Yugoslavia, there have been numerous reports of widespread
and systematic rape and other forms of sexual assault. The
Commission, concerned about
these reported crimes, undertook several means of research and
investigation to ascertain the facts.

233. The Commission sought particularly to examine the
relationship between "ethnic cleansing" and rape and other forms of
sexual assault.

234. Owing to the social stigma attached - even in times of
peace - rape is among the least reported crimes. For this reason,
it is very difficult to make any general assessment of actual
numbers of rape victims. In the former Yugoslavia, there appears
to have been very little, if any, difference between the ethnic
groups in the reluctance to report rape. The overall reluctance to
report rape is aggravated by war, especially if the
perpetrators are soldiers and also where there is a general
condition of chaos and a breakdown in law and order. The victims
may have little confidence in finding justice. The strong fear of
reprisal during wartime adds to the silencing of victims. 60/ The
perpetrators have a strong belief that they can get away with their

235. Men are also subject to sexual assault. They are forced to
rape women and to perform sex acts on guards or each other. They
have also been subjected to castration, circumcision or other
sexual mutilation.

27 May 1994

1. Rape and sexual assaults study: the Commission's

database 61/

236. The reports contained in the Commission's database identify
close to 800 victims by name or number. 62/ An additional 1,673
victims are referred to, but not named in reports of victims who
indicate that they have witnessed or know of other similar victims.
Additionally, there are some 500 reported cases which refer to an
unspecified number of victims. The victims' ages, as
reported, range from 5 to 81 years old, with the majority of
victims below 35 years old. The reported cases identify some 600
alleged perpetrators by name. In other cases, victims refer to a
specific number of perpetrators, but do not identify them by name.
In those cases of unidentified perpetrators, about 900 perpetrators
are referred to. Of all the reports received, about
800 contain general information, identifying some perpetrators as
soldiers, police, paramilitary, special forces, etc. The alleged
perpetrators include military personnel, special forces, local
police and civilians. About 80 per cent of the reported cases
specify that they occurred in settings where the victims were held
in custody.

237. The reported cases of rape and sexual assault contained in
the database occurred between the fall of 1991 and the end of 1993.
The majority of the rapes occurred from April to November 1992;
fewer occurred in the following five months. In the same time
period, the number of media reports
increased from a few in March 1992 to a high of 535 news stories in
January 1993 and 529 in February 1993. This correlation could
indicate that the media attention caused the decline. In that
case, it would indicate that commanders could control the alleged
perpetrators if they wanted to. 63/ This could lead to the
conclusion that there was an overriding policy
advocating the use of rape as a method of "ethnic cleansing",
rather than a policy of omission, tolerating the widespread
commission of rape.

2. Pilot study on rape

238. From 29 June to 9 July 1993, the Commission sent an

mission, consisting of Canadian military personnel, to Sarajevo to
undertake a pilot study on the rape issue. 64/ The objective was
to review available information and to develop a methodology for
interviewing witnesses and victims in order to determine how
relevant evidence could be obtained for use before a tribunal.

239. In Sarajevo, the investigative team obtained all the
relevant information from the database of the War Crimes Commission
of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The database lists 126 victims, 113
incidents, 252 alleged perpetrators, 73 witnesses and 100
documents. Of these, there were 105 rape cases.

240. It is the view of the Commission of Experts that the pilot
study of the rape issue was relatively generalized. Although the
pilot study assessed various information sources, it was not
practicable to gather precise information leading to possible prima
facie cases.

3. Rape and other forms of sexual assault:

interviewing victims and witnesses

241. A series of interviews was carried out by the Commission in
Croatia and Slovenia in March 1994. 65/ Among the 146 victim-
witnesses from Bosnia and Herzegovina who were interviewed, 31 were
women victims of rape, and two
were suspected by the interviewer to have been victims themselves
but were unwilling to speak of their own experience. One of the
men from Bosnia and Herzegovina interviewed was a victim of sexual
assault. This occurred in a detention facility. Among the women,
18 66/ were raped in their own homes, while 13 had been raped while
in detention. Among the other men and women interviewed, there
were 21 witnesses to additional cases of rape or sexual
assaults. 67/ This involves a total number of 55 persons who were
either the victims of or witnesses to rape or sexual assault.

242. Among the 77 victim-witnesses from Croatia who were
interviewed, 11 were women victims of rape. Six of the men from
Croatia who were interviewed
were victims of sexual assault. In the case of the men, all but
one of these violations occurred in a detention context. However,
seven of the women had been raped in their own homes. These women
were victims of multiple and/or gang rapes involving up to eight
soldiers. Four women were raped while in detention, among them was
a woman who was detained in her own home for six months and raped
almost daily. Among the other men and women interviewed
from Croatia, nine were witnesses to additional cases of rape or
sexual assault. This involves a total number of 27 persons who
were either the victims of or witnesses to rape or sexual assault.

243. All of the information gathered through the 223 interviews,
68/ that were conducted by the Commission has been made available
to the Prosecutor of the International Tribunal. There has been
insufficient time between the end of the interview process (31
March 1994) and the finalization of the present report (30 April
1994) for a detailed analysis of the cases to be conducted
by the Commission. 69/ However, the information gathered seems to
support the analysis carried out on the basis of the allegations
included in the Commission's database. In the following
paragraphs, the patterns of rape and sexual assault identified
through the database are outlined, while illustrations are given
which are drawn from among the interviews.

244. Five patterns 70/ emerge from the reported cases,
regardless of the ethnicity of the perpetrators or the victims (see
also para. 229 for a description of rape practices in custodial

245. The first pattern involves individuals or small groups
committing sexual assault in conjunction with looting and
intimidation of the target
ethnic group. This is before any widespread or generalized
fighting breaks out in the region. Tensions in an area grow and
members of the ethnic group controlling the regional government
begin to terrorize their neighbours. Two or more men break into a
house, intimidate the residents, steal their property, beat them
and often rape the females. Some of the reported rapes are
singular and some multiple. In either case, there is often a gang
atmosphere where the abuses are part of the same event and all the
attackers participate, even if they do not sexually assault the
victims. One of the women interviewed was gang-raped by eight
soldiers in front of her six-year-old sister and her five-month-old
daughter. One of the men was forced at gunpoint to rape the
victim, "as she was an Ustasha". When she reported the crimes to
local authorities, they said they could do nothing as "she was a Croat".

246. The second pattern of rape involves individuals or small
groups committing sexual assaults in conjunction with fighting in
an area, often including the rape of women in public. When forces
attack a town or village, the population is rounded up and divided
by sex and age. Some women are
raped in their homes as the attacking forces secure the area.
Others are selected after the roundup and raped publicly. The
population of the village is then transported to camps. One
victim-witness interviewed saw an elderly woman and others raped in
front of a group of 100 detained villagers. The witness was
herself threatened with rape and she saw a number of men from the
group having their throats cut.

247. The third pattern of rape involves individuals or groups
sexually assaulting people in detention because they have access to
the people. Once the population of a town or village has been
rounded up, men are either executed or sent off to camps, while
women are generally sent off to separate
camps. Soldiers, camp guards, paramilitaries and even civilians may
be allowed to enter the camp, pick out women, take them away, rape
them and then either kill them or return them to the site. Reports
frequently refer to gang rape, while beatings and torture accompany
most of the reported rapes. Survivors report that some women are
taken out alone, and some are taken out in groups. Though this is
the general pattern, there are also many
allegations that women are raped in front of other internees, or
that other internees are forced to sexually abuse each other. In
camps where men are detained, they are also subjected to sexual
abuse. During the Commission's interviewing process 15 people were
interviewed whose major allegations
related to the same detention camp. Some witnesses were men, and
all of the women victims had been raped. The women were sometimes
gang raped by, or in the presence of, the camp commander. Guards
from the external ring of security around the camp (who apparently
did not enter the camp in the course of their work) and soldiers
who were strangers to the camp would be allowed
access to the camp for rape. One of the victim-witnesses
interviewed saw a woman die after being in a coma for a week as a
result of about 100 sadistic rapes by guards. Sexual assaults were
also practised against men: one witness saw prisoners forced to
bite another prisoner's genitals. In addition, 10 of those
interviewed had witnessed deaths by torture and seven of the group
had survived or witnessed mass executions (there or in other
camps). Another incident related in an interview involved
prisoners lined up naked while Serb women from outside undressed in
front of the male prisoners. If any prisoner had an erection, his
penis was cut off. The witness saw a named Serb woman thus
castrate a prisoner. Another ex-detainee told of suffering
electric shocks to the scrotum and of seeing a father and son who
shared his cell forced by guards to perform sex acts with each

248. The fourth pattern of rape involves individuals or groups
committing sexual assaults against women for the purpose of
terrorizing and humiliating them often as part of the policy of
"ethnic cleansing". Survivors of some camps report that they
believe they were detained for the purpose of rape. In those
camps, all of the women are raped quite frequently, often in front
of other internees, and usually accompanied by beatings and
torture. Some captors also state that they are trying to
impregnate the women. Pregnant women are detained until it is too
late for them to obtain an abortion. One woman was detained by her
neighbour (who was a soldier) near her village for six months. She
was raped almost daily by three or four soldiers. She was told
that she would give birth to a chetnik boy who would kill Muslims
when he grew up. They repeatedly said their President had ordered them
to do this. One woman's home was taken by Serbian neighbours and
used as a detention centre for interrogations over several months.
She was raped almost daily and beaten for several months; two other
women were raped there too. She saw several killings and torture.

249. The fifth pattern of rape involves detention of women in
hotels or similar facilities for the sole purpose of sexually
entertaining soldiers, rather than causing a reaction in the women.
These women are reportedly more often killed than exchanged, unlike
women in other camps. One woman interviewed was detained in a
private house with a number of other women for six months. The
women were of mixed ethnicity. All the women were raped
when soldiers returned from the front line every 15 days. The
witness was told that the women had to do this because the women in
another camp (which the witness named and which has been documented
by other information gatherers) were exhausted.

250. Common threads run through the cases reported whether
within or outside of a detention context:

(a) Rapes seem to occur in conjunction with efforts to displace
the targeted ethnic group from the region. This may involve
heightened shame and humiliation by raping victims in front of
adult and minor family members, in
front of other detainees or in public places, or by forcing family
members to rape each other. Young women and virgins are targeted
for rape, along with prominent members of the community and
educated women;

(b) Many reports state that perpetrators said they were ordered
to rape, or that the aim was to ensure that the victims and their
families would never want to return to the area. Perpetrators tell
female victims that they will bear children of the perpetrator's
ethnicity, that they must become pregnant, and then hold them in
custody until it is too late for the victims to get an
abortion. Victims are threatened that if they ever tell anyone, or
anyone discovers what has happened, the perpetrators will hunt them
down and kill them;

(c) Large groups of perpetrators subject victims to multiple
rapes and sexual assault. In detention, perpetrators go through
the detention centres
with flashlights at night selecting women and return them the next
morning, while camp commanders often know about, and sometimes
participate in, the sexual assaults;

(d) Victims may be sexually abused with foreign objects like
broken glass bottles, guns and truncheons. Castrations are
performed through crude means such as forcing other internees
to bite off a prisoner's testicles.

251. Rape has been reported to have been committed by all sides
to the conflict. However, the largest number of reported victims
have been Bosnian Muslims, and the largest number of alleged
perpetrators have been Bosnian Serbs. There are few reports of
rape and sexual assault between members of the same ethnic group.

252. In Bosnia, some of the reported rape and sexual assault
cases committed by Serbs, mostly against Muslims, are clearly the
result of individual or small group conduct without evidence of
command direction or an overall policy. However, many more seem to
be a part of an overall pattern
whose characteristics include: similarities among practices in
non-contiguous geographic areas; simultaneous commission of other
international humanitarian law violations; simultaneous military
activity; simultaneous activity to displace civilian populations;
common elements in the commission of rape, maximizing shame and
humiliation to not only the victim, but also the victim's
community; and the timing of rapes. One factor
in particular that leads to this conclusion is the large number of
rapes which occurred in places of detention. 71/ These rapes in
detention do not appear to be random, and they indicate at least a
policy of encouraging rape supported by the deliberate failure of
camp commanders and local authorities to exercise command and
control over the personnel under their authority.

253. These patterns strongly suggest that a systematic rape
policy existed in certain areas, but it remains to be proven
whether such an overall policy existed which was to apply to all
non-Serbs. It is clear that some level of organization and group
activity was required to carry out many of the alleged rapes.
Furthermore, rape and sexual assault should be examined in the
context of the practice of "ethnic cleansing", which is discussed
in paragraphs 129 to 150 and the practices in detention camps
discussed in paragraph 230. When viewed in these contexts, it is
clear that grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions occurred, as
did other violations of international humanitarian law. 72/