SARAJEVO, Bosnia (October 15,2008) - On behalf of the European Commission Delegation to Bosnia,Head of Operation Section III Constantino Longares and the Bosnian President Haris Silajdzic, addressed the participants of the conference “Protection of war victims”, held in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo yesterday.
The conference was organised by the German Organisation Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) and the Bosnian Association “Žena žrtva rata” ("Woman - Victim of War"), with aim to raise awareness of the governing structures, civil society and general public on the issues that civil victims of war have been facing in Bosnia today. Participants, legal experts, human rights activists, representatives of the relevant ministries and civil society discussed the ways of improving the status of war victims in Bosnia.
ASB is one of Germany’s largest and oldest humanitarian organisations. ASB has been providing humanitarian assistance, often in direct response to natural disasters and conflict, abroad since 1922.
At the opening ceremony, Longares expressed his hope that the project implemented by ASB along with its Bosnian partners would contribute to social inclusion of civil victims of war by raising public awareness of issues they face in Bosnia, and by providing recommendations for improvement of legislation in this sector at all government levels.
“You have asked for our continuous support and you will have our continuous support. But, I assure you, the most effective support will be that that will force your public institutions to take care of the victims themselves. What is going to be important for this country to become a member of the EU is whether it is functioning as a proper state, whether it takes care of its people, and that is part of the EU’s accession agenda.” – Longares said, urging participants of the conference to use this and similar future opportunities to analyse what is still missing in the legal and administrative environment of Bosnia and to work jointly to achieve that.
The Bosnian President Haris Silajdzic spoke about relations towards victims of war in Bosnia, emphasizing importance to establish the truth about the war crimes committed in the past war, as well as importance of punishing those who committed war crimes.
President of the Association “Woman - Victim of War” Bakira Hasečić thanked both ASB for implementing and the European Commission for financing the project aimed at socio-economic empowerment of civil victims of war. She underlined that, through the project, they had a huge success in the past two years in creating a data base with information on war crimes and war crime victims in Bosnia.
ASB Director for the southeastern Europe Elmir Bojadzic, explained that the project was implemented through four components – strengthening capacities of the local organisations, education of war victims in preparing and developing business plans, solving housing issues of the most endangered victims, and the final component was raising public awareness on the issue.
“The goal of this conference is to raise awareness of the continuous need for discussing sensitive topics such as this one, and to find institutional and international assistance in order to overcome the situation in which we are right now.” – said Bojadžić.
The Head of the Special Department for War Crimes within the Bosnian State Prosecutor’s Office, David Schwendiman stated on this occasion that witness protection was one of the prosecution’s greatest concerns.
Representatives of the associations of the civil victims of war that participated in the conference also used this opportunity to call on representatives of the international community and the Bosnian authorities to continue to support their activities.
Organisation Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) implements project Socio-economic empowerment of particularly vulnerable groups including women victims of war and landmine victims in Bosnia, financed by European Union within programme of support to improvement of conditions and development perspectives of the marginalised groups in development countries.
Total project value is 1 million Euros of which 750,000 Euros is granted by the European Union, 100,000 Euros by Sarajevo Canton and 150,000 Euros by the ASB.