The European Council, at its meeting in Edinburgh (on 11-12 December 1993) discussed the increasingly alarming reports of the treatment of Muslim women in Bosnia-Herzegovina and called for the rapid dispatch of a delegation to investigate the facts and to report back urgently to Foreign Ministers with recommendations on the action which might subsequently be taken. (para 1)

The mission feels it must record criticisms expressed to it that its terms of reference were too restrictive. While fully respecting the terms of its mandate, the Mission heard statements that similar abuses - though of a smaller scale - had been committed against other groups in the former Yugoslavia. (para 2)


On the basis of its investigations the Mission is satisfied that the rape of Muslim women has been - and perhaps still is - perpetrated on a wide scale and in such a way as to be part of a clearly recognisable pattern, sufficient to form an important element of war strategy. (para 13)

Throughout its work, however, the delegation frequently heard - including from several individual witnesses and sources - that a repeated feature of Serbian attacks on Moslems towns and villages was the use of rape, often in public, or the threat of rape, as a weapon of war to force the population to leave their homes. Probably in most cases, other forms of physicals and mental violence to persons were associated with rape, accompanied or followed by the destruction of homes, mosques and churches. The Mission saw examples of statements and documents from Serbian sources which very clearly put such actions in the context of an expansionist strategy. (para 19)

Overall, the Mission accepted the view that rape is part of a pattern of abuse, usually perpetrated with the conscious intention of demoralising and terrorising communities, driving them from their home regions and demonstrating the power of the invading forces. Viewed in this way, rape cannot be seen as incidental to the main purposes of the aggression but at serving a strategic purpose in itself..... (para 20)


The conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina has entailed widespread destruction of life and property, acts of unspeakable brutality and mutilation in contravention of international human rights standards and international humanitarian law. Rape and sexual abuse must be considered in the same context and cannot be seen in isolation from these other atrocities. Given the manner in which, and the scale on which, rape is perpetrated in the Bosnia-Herzegovinian conflict, it outrages personal dignity, is a particularly humiliating and degrading treatment, and a clear form of torture. (para 7)

There are many and disturbing reports of rape of Croat and Serbian women and children, as well as sexual abuse of men in detention camps. The mission therefore has to emphasise that all those who are victims of this appalling conflict must be the concern of the international community.
(para 9)

However, on the basis of its investigations, the Mission accepts that it is possible to speak in terms of many thousands. Estimates vary widely, ranging from 10,000 to as many as 60,000. The most reasoned estimates suggested to the Mission place the number of victims at around 20,000.
(para 14)

The enormity of the suffering being inflicted on the civilian population in this conflicts defies expression. Indications are that at least some of the rapes have been committed in particularly sadistic ways, so as to inflict maximum humiliation on the victims, on their family, and on the whole community. In many cases there seems little doubt that the intention is deliberately to make women pregnant and then to detain them until pregnancy is far enough advanced to make termination impossible, as an additional form of humiliation and constant reminder of the abuse done to them. (para 15)

The mission repeatedly heard accounts - including direct testimonies from a small number of victims - of multiple rapes against women in small centres (variously described as rape camps or "bordello") located in schools, police stations, hotel, restaurants etc. It is however, not possible to speak authoritatively on the situation in parts of eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina where reports suggest there may be larger concentrations of women in detention centres. Satisfactory verification of such reports by the relevant international agencies has not been possible, particularly for the period May/June 1992, to which a great many reports refer. Certain of these purported centres are located in areas currently inaccessible to international investigation. On-site verification is also severely handicapped by the practical impossibility of unannounced inspections, which provides the opportunity for the removal of evidence. Experience would also suggest that once the existence of such centres becomes public knowledge, they tend to be closed down. The Mission, in looking at the issue of on-site inspections, was also guided by advice received locally which stressed the need, in pressing for such action, to have regard for the welfare of women so detained. (para 16)


The Mission was impressed by the great efforts being made by those involved in bringing assistance and comfort to refugees and displaced persons wherever it met them. Whether nationals of the countries in conflict or internationally recruited, they are at full stretch. Improvement in the quantity and quality of the provision for, notably, women victims can only be achieved with better co-ordination and facilitations of governmental, non-governmental and private efforts and carefully targeted additions to resources - including staffing. Improved political stability would simplify the task, but greater support is anyway needed. (para 21)

In the refugee camps the main problems the delegation identified were the lack of sanitation, overcrowding in damp, dirty and lice infested conditions, no separate accommodation for women or for families and the possibility of the rapid spread of contagious diseases particularly in the summer months. Food provision was inadequate with little nutritional value. There is no special food provision for women with special needs e.g. pregnant women, women with new born babies and toddlers. (para 25)

In the hospitals the Mission identified problems within current health care provision in free Bosnia-Herzegovina includes a lack of basic facilities and equipment. Many staff are working in dangerous and difficult conditions over long and exhausting hours. They are required to take on increased numbers of patients, are not receiving regular salary and often go without food. They constantly have to make difficult ethical and moral judgments about the relative priorities of health requirements. The lack of appropriate drugs for many physical and psychiatric conditions leads to higher rates of mortality amongst vulnerable patient groups including higher rates of prenatal mortality. (para 26)

There is a general problem of ensuring access, both to the hospital by patients and to the patients by health professionals. These difficulties are most acute for less mobile individuals e.g. women with children, pregnant women, elderly population and women who may be traumatised through their experiences in the conflict, including rape and sexual abuse. The problem of early discharge of patients from hospital, including delivered mothers, alongside the lack of follow up provision and community based care means the continuation of considerable untreated pathology in these patients. (para 27)



The Mission sees an urgent need for careful and extended matching of offers of assistance with the needs and capabilities of organisations who could implement that aid. A clearing house (possible under UN auspices) which could assist governmental, non-governmental and private organisations in ascertaining both what is required and to whom they can give it would be a considerable contribution.The Mission suggests that the E.C Commission should previously consider establishing a presence in the area for a period to serve as a co-ordinating focus for the Community within this wider framework. (para 28)

To involve EC member states and the relevant organs of the Community would be aimed at assisting UN bodies such as UNHCR, WHO (both European and Regional offices), International NGOs, and the host governments. Appointed experts from member states could help ... set an overall financial framework for initiatives, and could be charged with developing a detailed costing of programmes of assistance. (para 29)


There is a pressing need everywhere for physical facilities to be built, whether to house medical help or to provide space for living, counselling or after-care. (para 30)

Raped women require a range of skilled psychological therapies, which take into account the complex and long term nature of problems experienced, the reluctance to disclose sexual violation, the social stigma associated with rape, the unwillingness of women to seek out help and the fact that they do not wish to be readily identified as rape victims. It is therefore essential to emphasise the relatedness of rape to other forms of physical and psychological trauma and that rape services should be provided alongside other similar counselling services. (para 31)

It is important that help must be provided in three phases: immediate, medium-term & long term to specific target groups.. (para 32)

.The victims of rape & abuse desperately need easily accessible and qualified help. (para 34)

It is essential in the medium term to remove certain vulnerable individuals from the conditions of the refugee camps. In particular, women with children, pregnant women and women who have already been subjected to a variety of trauma and abuse. The removal of such individuals to more tolerable conditions cannot be achieved in the immediate term. (para 35)

In the immediate future certain basic conditions must be met to alleviate current hardships. These basic needs include: proper sanitation and washing facilities to be installed at all refugee centres in Bosnia-Herzegovina, ensuring adequate nutrition is provided to these centres, particularly to the vulnerable groups. The provision of adequate health care to women in refugee centres by mobile units which would include screening for medical and psychological pathology, family planning, prenatal and postnatal care. (para 36)

These teams should target services for traumatised and vulnerable women: screening for acute medical and psychological pathology, first aid, follow up treatment (including the provision of drugs) and health education. The mobile units should be linked to the major hospitals in Bosnia-Herzegovina i.e. Sarajevo, Zenica, Travnik and Tuzla. (para 38)

The Mission recommends that more appropriate and acceptable housing be provided for the most traumatised woman amongst the refugee and displaced persons population.. (para 40)


It is suggested that Community governments receiving Bosnia-Herzegovinian refuges, and particularly Muslim women who have suffered rape, should ensure that their visa procedures are as rapid as possible. In addition, governments should consider the possibility of making places available for Bosnia-Herzegovinian Muslim women, especially those needing medical treatment, to enter their countries on a temporary basis. (para 41)


The Mission believes there is now a strong case for clearly identifying these abuses as war crimes, irrespective of whether they occur in national or international conflicts. (para 42)

The Mission wishes to emphasise that those bodies, whether officially sponsored or not, already seeking to assemble and collate documentary evidence within Bosnia-Herzegovina and other parts of former Yugoslavia, are in great need of funds even for basic office equipment and supplies and transport. To pursue the search for firm evidence against those responsible for allowing such abuse of women, both through Centres and in areas where the abuse has happened, would seem to be a matter of urgency. (para 43)

Copenhagen, Thursday, 28 January 1993
Copies of the full Report are available from WomenAid International.

Summary approved by Dame Ann Warburton. Published March 1993 by WomenAid.