The incongruity of BiH districts' laws on human trafficking prosecution are put in line with the changes.
By Reid James for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 31/01/13
New reforms in the BiH legal code on human trafficking should harmonise the country's four judicial districts. [AFP]
A multi-agency task force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) introduced a series of amendments that will harmonise legal codes on human trafficking in the country's four judicial districts, facilitating the prosecution of trafficking crimes. The amendments would also define the consumption of services from trafficked persons as criminal.
The reforms are a response, in part, to criticism from international bodies, which have cited BiH for falling behind its objectives in prosecuting traffickers.
A complete lack of state-level prosecutions in 2011 knocked the country down from a tier one rating to tier two in 2012 on the UNHCR list of countries fighting trafficking.
The amendments took almost two years to draft, and the process involved members of all areas of the BiH government, with oversight and advising from the OSCE and the Council of Europe (CoE).
The aim is to bring all four jurisdictions in line with European standards, but that process is a piecemeal one, since each operates independently. So far, the state legislature is the only jurisdiction that conforms to those standards.
Republika Srpska recently agreed to begin implementing the working group recommendations. The Brcko District and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) have yet to comply, and convincing them to do so was the main goal of the conference at the BiH parliamentary assembly last week.
"Only by working together can we put an end to this terrible trade in human suffering, and the unimaginable pain caused by human trafficking," said Fletcher Burton, the head of the OSCE Mission in BiH, at the conference.
Brcko and FBiH officials who attended the conference appeared willing to making those changes, said an OSCE representative.
The incongruity of the districts' laws has stifled human trafficking prosecution in the past years. Because the criminal codes do not line up, cross-district cases have often defaulted to the lesser charge of "inciting to prostitution," which means that the women and children involved are prosecuted alongside their suspected traffickers, rather than receiving the support legally afforded to trafficking victims.
Human trafficking became a crime in BiH for the first time in 2003. In 2010, when the task force first formed, it passed amendments that began an on-going process of improving and adjusting the criminal code.
Future reforms should expand the law to include cybercrime, said Nermin Kapetanovic of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, so that it would cover the distribution of child pornography.
"These crimes persist because definitions of crimes and sanctions aren't harmonised," Kapetanovic said.