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Gendered Justice Gaps in Bosnia–Herzegovina

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A gendered reading of the liberal peacebuilding and transitional justice project in Bosnia–Herzegovina raises critical questions concerning the quality of the peace one hopes to achieve in transitional societies. By focusing on three-gendered justice gaps—the accountability, acknowledgement, and reparations gaps—this article examines structural constraints for women to engage in shaping and implementing transitional justice, and unmasks transitional justice as a site for the long-term construction of the gendered post-conflict order. Thus, the gendered dynamics of peacebuilding and transitional justice have produced a post-conflict order characterized by gendered peace and justice gaps. Yet, we conclude that women are doing justice within the Bosnian–Herzegovina transitional justice project, and that their presence and participation is complex, multilayered, and constrained yet critical.

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  1. The focus group was part of a larger study concerned with obstacles to women’s participation in peace processes. The study also includes case studies from Liberia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iraq. See Mannergren Selimovic et al., 2012.

  2. The Rome Statute of the ICC explicitly defines sexual and gender-based violence as crimes against humanity (article7g) beyond the act of rape, war crimes (article 8.2 ii), and to a certain extent as genocide (article 6d).

  3. One example is the reparations program recommended in the final report of the Truth, Reception, and Reconciliation Commission in Timor Leste (CAVR), which lists gender equity as one of five guiding principles (Rubio-Marín and de Greiff 2007).

  4. The Dayton Peace Accord (DPA) of 1995 included the BiH constitution which divided Bosnia–Herzegovina into two entities, the Bosnian-Serb Republika Srpska and The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Bosnian-Croats and Bosniaks (Muslims) cohabitate. Following the DPA, BiH saw a decade of international peacebuilding assistance including judicial reforms. In these processes, women were largely absent from political decision making (Björkdahl 2012). Like many other peace agreements, the DPA did not reflect women’s experiences or their expectations of the postwar peace. Assessing the Dayton Peace Accords from a gender perspective, the Swedish NGO Kvinna till Kvinna concludes that gender and women’s rights are not salient in the DPA. In fact, the DPA did “not diminish but reaffirmed the patriarchal nationalism as a dominant ideology and social system in postwar Bosnia” and established a peace that is far from gender just (Cockburn 2013: 127).

  5. There is also a state-level law on missing persons. Also in its draft stages is a program of assistance for women victims of war rape, sexual violence, and torture 2013–1016.

  6. The complexity of the justice system in BiH means that two criminal codes are in use with sometimes contradictory approaches (Impunity Watch 2012: 41).

  7. Articles 172 and 173 in the Criminal Code of BiH.

  8. In the Federation of BiH, legislation regulates including Law on Principles of Social Protection, Protection of all Civilian Victims of War, and Protection of Families with Children, Law on the Rights of War Veterans and Their Family members. In Republika Srpska, legislation include the Law on Protection of Civilian War Victims of Republika Srpska and the Law on the Rights of Veterans, Disabled War Veterans and Families of Soldiers fallen in the defensive, and Fatherland War of Republika Srpska (Impunity Watch 2012, pp. 49–50).

  9. The government system for compensations to war victims in BiH is complex, and the recipients are categorized into four categories as follows: (1) disabled war veterans (military payment), (2) payments to families of fallen or missing soldiers (military payment), (3) payments to civilian victims, and (4) payments to families whose members were killed or disappeared during the conflict. Out of 11,000 recipients of civilian payments, only 621 were victims of sexual violence in Federation of BiH. In RS, 3,843 persons were recipients of civilian payments (probably including victims of sexual violence in conflict but no specific category for this) compared with 69,451 persons receiving military payments.


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Correspondence to Johanna Mannergren Selimovic.

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Björkdahl, A., Mannergren Selimovic, J. Gendered Justice Gaps in Bosnia–Herzegovina. Hum Rights Rev 15, 201–218 (2014).

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