“Justice for Girls” protest in Zagreb. Photo: BIRN.

Report: Impunity remains an obstacle for justice and gender equality in the Balkans

Press Release

Sarajevo, 5 December 2019 – Impunity for past and present violence against women remains a main obstacle for justice and gender equality throughout the Balkans region; while responses by the international community have been too narrow and are lacking long-term political support, says a new report by Impunity Watch.


Impunity Watch and the Balkan Investigative Reporting network issued a new report on 5 December entitled ‘Balkan Chronicle: Gender Equality, Transitional Justice and the International Community.’ The report, which is part of the Balkan Transitional Justice Initiative, examines the topic of gender justice in post-Yugoslav societies and emphasises the role of the international community.

20 years after the wars in the Balkans, survivor voices

calling for justice for war-time rape are as loud as ever.

Survivors have been courageously calling for change for

many years; however, they have not seen it yet and some

might not see it at all.  

Powerful structures that benefit from widespread

impunity have been suppressing any progress; which is

strongly felt by survivors. Prosecutions are generally on

the decline throughout the region of the former

Yugoslavia. Gender sensitive reparation programmes that

could make a real difference in the lives of survivors are

lacking. There is a serious risk that the voices calling for

justice will be lost, and with them the demand for the

non-recurrence of the violations.

According to the report, the responses of the international community to violations of the principles of gender equality and transitional justice in the Balkans were often too narrow and lacked long-term political support.

“A broader gender perspective to transitional justice policies in the Balkans is missing. Gender equality and transitional justice policy in the region has been mostly limited to pushing for legally addressing conflict-related sexual violence. This narrow approach did not lead to any meaningful change,” said the author of the report Thomas Unger from Impunity Watch. “Political settlement and economic reform, which only benefit a few, have been prioritised over the issue of gender equality and justice from the very beginning,” he added.

This is concerning, in particular on the eve of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Security Council Resolution 1325. The resolution has been adopted in 2000 to make gender equality a reality in the aftermath of conflict. Dealing with gender-based violence during and after conflict was considered key to ensuring non-recurrence.

Unger highlighted that the region of the former

Yugoslavia could have been a real success story in

bringing justice and changing discriminatory gender

structures that have led to these horrific crimes.

The report also finds that the root causes, such

as patriarchal structures or economic and political

discrimination of women, were not tackled forcefully

enough. Consequently, structures that work against

justice and equality could survive, and they are actually

reinforced in power today.

The enlargement process within the European Union,

with all its current problems, continues to be an important

leverage for change. The report recommends that it           

should be better used to demand setting up  a comprehensive,

gender-sensitive reparations programme as part of the accession requirements, in addition to continuing to prosecute war crimes.  

It is time to act. Survivors will not give up. As one activist states, “Forgetting is difficult. Remembering is worse. Fighting gives hope and delivers justice.”

It is our responsibility to help them in their fight for justice.

To download the full report:


-  English: Balkan Chronicle: Gender Equality, Transitional Justice and the International Community

- Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian: Balkanska hronika: rodna ravnopravnost, tranziciona pravda i međunarodna zajednica

-  Albanian: Kronikë Ballkanike: Barazia Gjinore, Drejtësia Tranzicionale dhe Komuniteti Ndërkombëtar

- Macedonian: Балканска хроника: родовата еднаквост, транзициската правда и меѓународната заедница

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Launching event in Sarajevo on 6 December 2019. Photo: BIRN

 Launching event in Sarajevo on 6 December 2019. Photo: BIRN