05/18: UN, SFOR involved in Bosnian prostitution - report

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Subject: 05/18: UN, SFOR involved in Bosnian prostitution - report
From: PJS (penelopes@earthlink.net)
Date: Wed May 24 2000 - 09:31:07 EDT

UN, SFOR involved in Bosnian prostitution - report

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - U.N. police in Bosnia and one member of a
NATO-led force have been involved in prostitution and a trade in
women that the Balkan country should do more to prevent, a U.N.
report said Thursday.

The report accused the authorities of going after the victims of
trafficking rather than the true culprits. It said the women are
often denied basic legal rights when detained.

``Bosnia-Herzegovina has emerged as a significant destination point
for women trafficked from Eastern Europe,'' said the report released
by the U.N. mission in Bosnia and the Office of the U.N. High
Commissioner for Human Rights.

The two agencies said they had dealt with 40 cases of suspected
trafficking of people in the year to March, involving 182 women.

Most were in their 20s but five were under 18.

``The women in these cases were almost all foreign nationals, hailing
from five countries -- Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Romania and the
Ukraine,'' it said.

``In approximately 14 cases ... there was evidence of complicity by
police, mostly local police but also some international police, as
well as foreign military (SFOR troops),'' the report said.

``All these groups were implicated as clients, though only local
police and one SFOR member were apparently involved in buying and
selling the women,'' the report said.

The U.N. International Police Task Force (IPTF) oversees the
restructuring of Bosnia's police while the 20,000-strong NATO-led
Stabilization Force (SFOR) maintains the peace.


The report said that an international civilian member of SFOR
reportedly paid $3,200 in November 1999 to a bar owner in the eastern
Serb-held town of Vlasenica for one woman from Romania and another
from Moldova.

``As a member of SFOR, the man was immune from prosecution by local
authorities. For unstated reasons, NATO declined to waive that
immunity,'' the report said.

``On the basis of his misconduct the man was relieved of his duties
and a few days later was barred from the SFOR area of operations. He
left Bosnia and no further action was taken.''

SFOR was not immediately available for comment.

In 1998, NATO dismissed allegations by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo
that its soldiers were involved in child prostitution and drug
trafficking in Bosnia.

U.N. spokesman Douglas Coffman told Reuters it could not prove
allegations against officers of the international police force. ``Had
we been able to prove the allegations we would have punished them
severely,'' he said.

The U.N. report said that most of the suspected trafficking was
reported in or near the country's Serb republic -- which with the
Muslim-Croat federation makes up Bosnia -- in some federation cantons
and the neutral northern Brcko district.

A significant part of the trade was reported at the vast, unregulated
``Arizona Market'' which has several brothels. It is in northern
Bosnia, on the boundary between the federation and Serb Republic and
near Croatia and Yugoslavia.

``In general, government authorities do not fully understand the
complexities of the trade in human beings nor do they comprehend its
scope. Law enforcement is often complicit, either overtly or by
silence and failure to act,'' the report said.

16:45 05-18-00

Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Penelope Saunders

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