Rape Is an International War Crime Thanks to This Bosnian Woman


Nusreta Sivac vowed to memorize the names and faces of the guards that repeatedly raped her and 36 other women at a Bosnia concentration camp in the early ’90s so that one day they would pay for their crimes.

One problem: rape wasn’t actually considered an international war crime until 1995, after Sivac and her colleagues spent years gathering testimony from women across Bosnia that convinced the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague to take sexual assault more seriously.

From the AP:

For centuries, rape was considered a byproduct of wars – collateral damage suffered by women, horrors often overshadowed by massacres. Even though the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 prohibited wartime rape, no court ever raised charges until Sivac and Cigelj presented their overwhelming evidence.
The effort finally paid off in June 1995 when the two traveled to The Hague to take part in preparations for the first indictment by the Yugoslav war crimes court.
Their collected evidence exposed the magnitude of rape which courts could no longer ignore. According to the United Nations, it was a major “turning point” in recognizing rape as a war crime.

A year later, the tribunal indicted eight Bosnian Serb men based on Sivac’s work. It was the first time ever that an international tribunal charged someone solely for crimes of sexual violence.

Sivac, who has since testified in several cases, including one that put her serial rapist behind bars, said she’s happy with her successes even though she’s dissatisfied with the pace. “It’s slow, very slow,” she said. “But it is a start.”


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