HL Deb 10 December 2003 vol 655 c64WA
Baroness Uddin

asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they will make representations to the Bosnian Government for victims of rape during the civil war to be afforded "civilian war victim status", which is currently reserved for those with physical disabilities, so as to secure limited financial support for such victims and their children. [HL1]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

The Government deplore the war crimes committed during the Balkans conflict in the early 1990s, including the rape of women and girls in Bosnia.

We are sympathetic to any proposal to improve the situation of the victims of these crimes, but it is not clear that awarding civilian war victim status would be the most effective means of ensuring support for these women. What is required is recognition of their suffering as victims of rape, conviction of the perpetrators and provision of appropriate support for these women and their children.

Through the work of the Department for International Development, and support for UNICEF and local NGOs, the Government support projects to raise awareness of rape as a war crime. We strongly support the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, which is tasked with bringing to trial those suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Balkans conflict, including rape. It has convicted a number of individuals of this crime. With our partners in the EU, we apply concerted pressure to all governments in the region for greater co-operation with ICTY, particularly in the handover and prosecution of indictees.

The best way to secure financial support for these women and their children is through successful convictions in the Bosnian courts, which can award compensation to the victims of rape. Together with our EU partners, we are working hard to strengthen the capacity of the Bosnian judicial system, so that it can prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes more effectively and efficiently, and provide sustainable support to the victims.