The Department of State has just released its 2021 Trafficking in Persons report evaluating the efforts that countries around the globe, including Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), have been making in eliminating this modern-day slavery that targets the most vulnerable in every society. The United States welcomes the overall increasing efforts demonstrated by BiH in combatting trafficking in persons compared to the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its capacity. Bosnia and Herzegovina was assessed to have met the criteria for upgrade to Tier 2. Tier 2 is defined as countries and territories whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
BiH’s efforts included strengthening the anti-trafficking strike force by allocating resources for honoraria and operational costs, expanding membership of the strike force, and creating a network of prosecutors and investigators to facilitate coordination. The Republika Srpska (RS) entity amended its law to increase the minimum sentence of child trafficking from five to 20 years and expanded the definition of trafficking. A judge from Tuzla Canton issued the highest sentence to date for forced child begging, and the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) established an operational team across four regional offices. The government increased overall victim protection efforts by identifying more victims, combining the domestic and foreign victim funds and disbursing funds to anti-trafficking NGOs, and drafting guidelines to standardize victim assistance, particularly for children. The government created a new database to standardize data collection on trafficking victims, established 18 regional monitoring teams (RMT) to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts, and helped recruit and train 25 Romani activists to join RMTs.
However, BiH did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.
The state, RS, and Brcko District (BD) did not convict any traffickers, while the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federation) convicted fewer traffickers than the year before. Law enforcement continued to regularly investigate trafficking under lesser offenses, while Federation judges continued to issue sentences below minimum penalties. Law enforcement lacked capacity, resources, and technical knowledge, which hindered their ability to conduct effective and victim-centered investigations and prosecutions. Authorities justified cases of potential forced child begging and forced labor involving Roma as traditional cultural practices and customs and sometimes returned children to their families even when parents were involved in their exploitation. Additionally, the government lacked proactive identification efforts and, as a result, often penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, particularly with misdemeanor charges for petty crimes.
All levels of government in BiH need to continue increasing efforts to fully implement the National Strategy to Counter Trafficking through close coordination, collaboration, and allocation of adequate resources.
The United States will continue assisting BiH in these efforts. The BiH National Strategy on Trafficking in Persons is fundamentally about protecting victims and the rule of law. It is also about institutions that should function to ensure protection and justice for victims and arrests and prosecutions of those who engage in the heinous crime of human trafficking.
The TIP Report for Bosnia and Herzegovina is available at this link (PDF 498KB).