Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Phillips says struggles between ethnic groups threaten stability.
Bosnia’s war crimes court issued a landmark ruling granting the first ever compensation to a wartime rape victim and sentencing two former Bosnian Serb soldiers who raped her early in the 1992-95 war to 10 years each in jail.
The woman is among thousands of victims of wartime rape whose search for recognition and support from the Bosnian state has so far been blocked by Bosnian Serb leaders who fear a wave of compensation claims.
Bosnian courts have persecuted and jailed a series of war criminals for the sexual violence during the war but have always directed victims to pursue compensation claims in expensive civil proceedings. Many victims have avoided this course of action because it requires them to reveal their identities.
The women also received no legal or financial assistance from the state in such proceedings.
The court jailed Bosiljko Markovic and Ostoja Markovic for 10 years and ordered them to pay 26,500 Bosnian marka ($15,200) to the Croat woman they repeatedly raped during the 1992 Serb attack on the northern village of Orahova, it said in a statement.
An estimated 100,000 people died during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and some estimates put the number of women raped during the conflict at up to 35,000.
Adrijana Hanusic, the legal adviser at TRIAL BiH which provides legal assistance to the victims, said the verdict “was revolutionary”.
“The victims now have reason to hope that legal practice will change, making it possible to compensate the victims and bring criminals to justice in a single trial,” she said.