Women and Justice: Location

Domestic Case Law

AP 2537/09 – Dalibor Perić Ustavni Sud Bosne i Hercegovine (Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2009)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence

In 2004, the common-law marriage between Dalibor Perić (“Perić”) and his wife was terminated.  Perić’s ex-wife was granted custody of their two-year-old son, and Perić was ordered to pay BAM 100 per month in child support.  Over the next three years, Perić never paid child support, he verbally abused and physically assaulted his ex-wife and her parents resulting in two domestic violence charges.  In addition, he beat the child on several occasions.  In 2007, the mother of the child filed a motion to terminate Perić’s parental rights.  Two years later, the Basic Court in Bijeljina stripped Perić of his parental rights pursuant to Article 106 of the Family Law of the Republika Srpska.  The County Court of Bijelina dismissed Perić’s appeal and upheld the lower court’s ruling.  Perić then appealed to the Constitutional Court of BiH, arguing the ruling of the County Court violated his right to a fair trial and right to private and family life.  Because no draft decision received a majority vote, the Constitutional Court of BiH dismissed Perić’s appeal.

Decision available in English here.



AP 2900/90 Tereza Usar Ustavni Sud Bosne i Hercegovine (Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2012)

International law, Property and inheritance rights

In 2007, Tereza Usar petitioned the Municipal Court in Mostar to recognize a common law marriage so that she could exercise her right to a family pension.  Usar had lived in a common-law marriage with Ivan Usar from July 1992 until September 1993 when he, a member of the Croatian Defence Council, was killed during the Bosnian War.  In the suit, Usar named as defendants the minor child she had with Ivan Usar and his legal heirs, his children from a previous marriage.  The Municipal Court dismissed Usar’s claim, finding her petition constituted a request to establish facts and not to enforce a right or legal relation because common-law marriage is not regulated by law, but is a factual situation of a union of a man and a woman.  The Cantonal Court in Mostar and the Supreme Court of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“FBiH”) upheld the lower court’s dismissal.  In 2012, the Constitutional Court of BiH quashed the judgment of the Cantonal Court in Mostar, finding the Cantonal Court violated Usar’s right to a fair trial under Article II(3)(e) of the Constitution of BiH and Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The appellate court found the lower court had arbitrarily applied the law in determining that common-law marriage is a factual and not a legal relation.  The Cantonal Court’s decision directly conflicted with Articles 213, 230-234, 263, and 380 of the Family Law of the FBiH, which prescribe the manner for the maintenance of common-law partners and children from common-law marriages, their property relations, and the procedure for obtaining protection against domestic violence.  That is, according to the Constitutional Court of BiH, the legislature of the FBiH did not make any distinction between marriage and common-law marriage with respect to legal relations.  Thus, “a life in common-law marriage implies certain rights and obligations, and hence, the existence of a legal relation between the persons who live or who had lived in a common-law marriage.”

Decision available in English here.



Prosecutor's Office v. A.P. Ustavni Sud Bosne i Hercegovine (Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2004)

International law, Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

In 2002, the Basic Court in Doboj convicted A.P. of Trafficking of Minors for the Purpose of Prostitution under Article 188 of the Criminal Code of the Republika Srpska.  The Court sentenced A.P. to two years’ imprisonment and prohibited him from operating a catering business for five years.  A.P. appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court of the Republika Srpska and then to the Constitutional Court of BiH.  He argued his right to a fair trial under the Constitution of BiH and the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated because he did not have an opportunity to cross-examine the victims at his trial.  Instead, the statements of the victims were read aloud in court.  The Constitutional Court of BiH found that, despite A.P. not having an opportunity to cross-examine the victims, his right to a fair trial had not been violated.  First, the victims were not present at A.P’s trial because they are foreign nationals who no longer resided in the Republika Srpska.  Second, the victims gave their testimony in person during preliminary criminal proceedings, and A.P. was allowed to refute the statements at his trial.  Third, the judgment of the Basic Court was not based solely on the victims’ statements, but also on the testimony of a third witness – who had paid to have sex with one of the victims at A.P.’s establishment – and material evidence.  

Decision available in English here.



Prosecutor's Office v. Nermin Ćupina Ustavni Sud Bosne i Hercegovine (Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2006)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

In 2002, Nermin Ćupina (“Ćupina”) recruited two underage girls and one woman and forced them, through threats of violence to them and their family members, to provide sexual services for money.  Each day, the victims were forced to earn KM 400 through prostitution, all of which Ćupina kept.  The Court of BiH sentenced Ćupina to 12 years’ imprisonment, which it added to Ćupina’s four-year prison sentence from the Cantonal Court in Mostar, resulting in a single sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment after credit for time served.  In addition, in accordance with Article 110 of the Criminal Code of BiH, the Court of BiH confiscated the material gain Ćupina acquired through his criminal enterprise.  The court, relying on the findings of an expert, established that Ćupina made at least BAM 100,000 in 2002 by prostituting the victims.  The court also concluded that because neither Ćupina nor his wife had regular income during 2002, the construction of an apartment valued at BAM 61,481.55 was financed entirely from Ćupina’s criminal enterprise.  The Court of BiH confiscated the apartment and ordered Ćupina to pay the remainder of the estimated material gain, BAM 38,518.45.

Decision available in English here.  



Prosecutor's Office v. Tasim Kučević Sudom Bosne i Hercegovine (Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2009)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

Between May 2003 and June 2005, Tasim Kučević (“Kučević”) and his common law wife, Meliha Pjević (“Pjević”), procured and exploited at least six women by forcing them to dance and serve cocktails at their hotel and provide sexual services to customers.  Through advertisements for dancing positions in Spain and Serbia, the couple enticed four women from Russia and Ukraine to come to Serbia; the victims were then trafficked to BiH.  By taking advantage of a Bosnian woman’s drug addiction and a Romanian woman’s illegal immigrant status in BiH, Kučević and Pjević forced two other women into prostitution at the same hotel.  Eight of Kučević’s acquaintances supervised the women, guarded the hotel, and ran the prostitution business.  In 2007, the Court of BiH convicted Kučević and Pjević of Organized Crime in conjunction with Pandering.  In 2009, a panel of the Appellate Division convicted Kučević and Pjević of Organized Crime in relation to Trafficking in Persons in violation of Articles 250(3) and 186(1) of the Criminal Code of BiH.   The panel, taking into consideration extenuating and aggravating factors, sentenced Kučević and Pjević to 12 and six years’ imprisonment, respectively.  The two were also forced to forfeit the material gain from their criminal enterprise, BAM 286,440.  Lastly, the eight men who assisted Kučević and Pjević in trafficking and exploiting the women were convicted of the same charges and sentenced to between three months’ and four years’ imprisonment.

Second instance verdict available in English here.



Prosecutor's Office v. Čedo Markelić Ustavni Sud Bosne i Hercegovine (Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2015)

Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

Between 2006 and 2007, Čedo Markelić recruited two minors for the purpose of sexual exploitation.  Markelić promised the girls he would give them money and help them with school-related problems if they provided sexual services to him and his acquaintances.  In May 2010, the Court of BiH found Markelić guilty of Trafficking in Persons (minors) in violation of Article 186(2) of the CC BiH and sentenced him to six years’ imprisonment.  The trial court, in determining whether Markelić had exploited the victims, took into consideration not only the girls’ age at the time of the crimes (15 and 16 years old), but also that, due to the victims’ “insufficient emotional development,” they did not have the capacity to consent to sexual acts.  Furthermore, the court held that under Article 186(4) of the CC BiH, whether a victim of human trafficking “consents” to the exploitation is irrelevant, particularly if the victim is a minor.  On appeal, Markelić argued that one of the three elements of human trafficking – the act of perpetration – was lacking in his case.  Specifically, he argued Article 186(1) of the CC of BiH requires that a human trafficking recruiter must have effective contact with a third person who controls the victim, and that third person must give his or her consent to the exploitation of the victim.  The Constitutional Court of BiH dismissed Markelić’s appeal, holding the Court of BiH correctly found all constituent elements of human trafficking under Article 186(2) were present.  The Constitutional Court of BiH found Markelić had committed the offense of human trafficking by recruiting the minors for the purpose of sexual exploitation; contact with a third party who controlled the victims was not required under the CC BiH.

Decision available in English here.



Prosecutor's Office v. Mario Ćosić Sudom Bosne i Hercegovine (Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2016)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

From mid-2007 until September 2012, Mario Ćosić and four acquaintances enticed at least six women to travel to BiH to work at a restaurant Ćosić operated.  Ćosić himself would often travel to Serbia to recruit women.  Once in BiH, the women – nationals of Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine, and Russia – were forced to provide sexual services for money at the restaurant.  In addition, a seventeen-year-old waitress employed by Ćosić provided sexual services for guests in exchange for money, half of which Ćosić kept.  Ćosić was charged with International Enticement to Prostitution under Article 187(1) of the Criminal Code of BiH and Enticing a Juvenile into Prostitution under Article 210(4) of the Criminal Code of the Federation of BiH.  In December 2016, Ćosić, facing up to 40 years in prison, entered a plea agreement to the above charges, under which he will serve 20 months in prison.  One of Ćosić’s coconspirators, Miroslav Čosić, similarly pleaded guilty to International Enticement to Prostitution in exchange for a six-month prison sentence.



Prosecutor's Office v. Radovan Stanković Sudom Bosne i Hercegovine (Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2007)

Gender violence in conflict, International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

In the summer of 1992, during an assault on the non-Serb civilian population of Foča in the early months of the Bosnian War, Radovan Stanković, a member of the Republika Srpska Army, established a small detention center for women at an apartment known as “The Brothel.”  He and others brought at least nine non-Serb females, most of whom were minors, to the apartment and detained them there.  Between August and November 1992, Stanković repeatedly raped one woman and her underage sister and incited other soldiers who visited the apartment to rape the detainees.  In addition, Stanković forced the victims to perform physical labor, including cooking for the soldiers, washing the soldiers’ uniforms, and bathing the soldiers.  In 2002, Stanković was arrested by the NATO peacekeeping force, KFOR, and transferred to the ICTY.  The ICTY referred Stanković’s case to the Court of BiH in 2005.  One year later, the Court of BiH convicted Stanković of Crimes against Humanity (enslavement, imprisonment, torture, and rape) under Article 172(1) of the Criminal Code of BiH and sentenced him to sixteen years imprisonment.  In 2007, a panel of the Appeals Division increased the prison term to twenty years.  Stanković appealed his sentence, which the ICTY and The Hague Court of Appeal upheld.  This case is notable because it was the first time the ICTY referred a case to a court of national jurisdiction.

Second instance verdict available in English here.



Prosecutor's Office v. Gojko Janković Sudom Bosne i Hercegovine (Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2007)

Gender violence in conflict, International law, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

Between April 1992 and November 1993, during the Bosnian War, Gojko Janković, a paramilitary leader within the Srpska Republika Army, participated in a widespread and systematic attack on the non-Serb civilian population of Foča.  Janković’s unit methodically captured civilians, detained them separately according to gender, and killed dozens of men.  During this time, Janković raped at least five girls and women; the soldiers under his command raped scores more.  In addition, Janković and a co-perpetrator kept two teenage girls in sexual slavery at a nearby house for over one year.  In 2005, Janković voluntarily surrendered and was transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”).  Shortly thereafter, the Referral Branch of the ICTY referred Janković’s case to the Court of BiH.  In 2007, the Court of BiH found Janković guilty of Crimes against Humanity under Article 172(1) of the Criminal Code of BiH and sentenced him to 34 years imprisonment.  In 2010, Janković appealed his conviction to the ICTY, arguing the Court of BiH convicted him under a law, the Criminal Code of BiH, which did not exist at the time his crimes were committed.  The ICTY denied his appeal.

Second instance verdict available in English here.



Prosecutor's Office v. Radmilo Vuković Sudom Bosne i Hercegovine (Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2008)

Gender violence in conflict, Sexual violence and rape

In 2007, the Court of BiH found Radmilo Vuković, a member of the Republika Srpska Army, guilty of War Crimes against Civilians under Article 173(1) of the Criminal Code of BiH for raping a Bosnian woman at least six times between June and August 1992, the early months of the Bosnian War.  In 2008, a panel of the Appellate Division acquitted Vuković of these charges, finding the testimonies of the claimant and her sister to be inconsistent and thus not credible.  First, the Court noted factual inconsistencies between the testimony of the claimant and her sister (e.g., the date of the first assault, whether the claimant told her mother of the assault).  Second, the Court found the testimonies of the claimant and her sister were inconsistent with prior statements they had given in 1994 and 2001.  Third, the Court noted that two defense witnesses testified that Vuković and the claimant were cohabiting partners engaged in an extramarital affair before the Bosnian War (however, the claimant denied any relationship).  Lastly, the Court questioned why the claimant did not obtain an abortion to terminate the pregnancy resulting from the alleged rape once she was in safe territory.  This case is notable because of the demanding standard set by the court regarding the testimony of rape victims: “The testimony of the injured party must not raise any suspicion as to its exactness and truthfulness, credibility and integrity of the witness exactly because the act of rape, as a rule, is never attended by a witness who might decisively support the testimony of the injured party.”  This case is also notable because the Court considered the claimant’s decision to not have an abortion to be evidence that a rape had not occurred.

Second instance verdict available in English here.



Prosecutor's Office v. Predrag Kujundžić Sudom Bosne i Hercegovine (Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2010)

Gender violence in conflict, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement, Trafficking in persons

From the spring of 1992 to the autumn of 1993, during the Bosnian War, Predrag Kujundžić, a commander in the local military and later police force, led several attacks against non-Serb civilians in Doboj.  During that time, he incited, aided, and abetted the murder, rape, imprisonment, and persecution of non-Serb civilians.  In addition, from June to December 1992, Kujundžić forced a Muslim minor into sexual slavery by use of force and threats to kill the victim’s mother and younger sister.  Kujundžić repeatedly raped the victim, forced her to have sexual intercourse with soldiers, and controlled every aspect of her life.  In 2009, the Court of BiH found Kujundžić guilty of Crimes against Humanity under Article 172(1) of the Criminal Code of BiH.  The Court found several aggravating circumstances present in Kujundžić’s case, including Kujundžić’s status as a commander, the motives for the attack, the large number of victims, and the fact that the victim of rape and sexual slavery was a minor.  The Court accordingly sentenced Kujundžić to 22 years imprisonment.  A panel of the Appellate Division later reduced his prison sentence to 17 years.

Second instance verdict available in English here.



Prosecutor’s Office v. Ćerim Novalić Sudom Bosne i Hercegovine (Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2011)

Gender violence in conflict, Sexual violence and rape

In September 1992, during the Bosnian War, the Army of BiH attacked Serb houses in the village of Džepi.  During this assault, Ćerim Novalić and an unidentified soldier entered a home to see if the couple was hiding Serbs.  While the unidentified soldiers interrogated the husband about his neighbors of Serb ethnicity, Novalić forced the wife into an upstairs room and raped her.  In 2010, the Court of BiH found Novalić guilty of a War Crime against a Civilian under Article 173(1) of the CC BiH and sentenced him to seven years imprisonment.  The following year, a panel of the Appellate Division of the Court of BiH revised Novalić’s conviction, finding him guilty under Article 142(1) of the Criminal Code of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the law in effect at the time of Novalić’s crime.  The Appellate Panel considered the “extremely humiliating manner” in which Novalić raped the victim – her underage children and mother-in-law were in an adjacent room and her husband was downstairs – and increased his sentence to eight years and six months imprisonment.  This is the upper-end of the typical prison sentence mandated by the Court of BiH for one count of rape during the Bosnian War.

Second revised verdict available in English here.



Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Slavko Lalović Sudom Bosne i Hercegovine (Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2012)

Gender violence in conflict, Sexual violence and rape

In August 1992, during the Bosnian War, Slavko Lalović served as a security guard at an elementary school turned into a prison for unlawfully detained civilians in Kalinovik.  While on duty, Lalović allowed two soldiers from the Republika Srpska Army to enter the makeshift prison and rape a detained woman.  Lalović also treated detainees inhumanely on several occasions.  In 2011, the Court of BiH found Lalović guilty of War Crimes against Civilians under Article 173(1) of the Criminal Code of BiH.  The following year, a panel of the Appellate Division revised Lalović’s sentence, convicting him under the law in effect at the time the crimes were committed, Article 142(1) of the Criminal Code of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  Lalović’s five-year prison sentence remained unchanged.  Notably, this is one of the few instances in which a person in a position of authority was found guilty by the Court of BiH of aiding and abetting a rape as a war crime during the Bosnian war.  

Second instance verdict available in English here.



Prosecutor’s Office v. Veselin Vlahović Sudom Bosne i Hercegovine (Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2014)

Gender violence in conflict, Sexual violence and rape

Between 1992 and 1995 during the Bosnian War, Veselin Vlahović a member of the Serbian paramilitary forces, committed various crimes against humanity against the civilian non-Serb population of Sarajevo, including murder, rape, physical and mental abuse, robbery, and enforced disappearance.  His crimes were so horrific that he was known by victims as the “Monster of Grbavica.”  In 2010, Vlahović was arrested in Spain and extradited to BiH.  In 2013, the Court of BiH found Vlahović guilty of sixty different crimes against humanity, including 35 murders and 11 rapes, as well as torture, imprisonment, and looting.  He was sentenced to forty-five years imprisonment.  In 2014, the Court of BiH acquitted Vlahović of one of the 60 counts of the indictment and reduced his prison sentence to 42 years.  Notably, Vlahović’s original prison sentence of 45 years was the maximum possible penalty and is the longest sentence handed down by the Bosnian war crimes court.

Second instance verdict available in English here.



Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Bogdanović Sudom Bosne i Hercegovine (Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina) (2015)

Gender violence in conflict, Sexual violence and rape

In May 1993, during the Bosnian War, Velibor Bogdanović, a member of the Croatian Defence Council, and five unidentified soldiers ransacked the home of a couple in Mostar.  The group stole jewelry from the home and took the husband to the local prison where he was unlawfully detained for 30 days.  In addition, Bogdanović raped the wife.  In 2011, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“BiH”) found Bogdanović guilty of War Crimes against Civilians under Article 173(1), as read together with Article 180(1) and Article 29, of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“CC BiH”).  In July 2015, the Constitutional Court of BiH overturned Bogdanović’s conviction, finding that it had been based on an inapplicable law.  And in September 2015, the Appellate Division of the Court of BiH revised Bogdanović’s sentence, finding him guilty of the criminal offense of War Crimes against Civilians under Article 142(1) of the Criminal Code of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia.  The Court imposed the minimum sentence on Bogdanović – five years imprisonment – reasoning that the accused was a married father, that he had been 22-years-old at the time that he committed the crime, that he had committed no criminal offense since the war, and that he had apologized to the victim after the war and offered her assistance.

Revised second instance verdict in English available here.