Enforced Disappearance Legal Database

Tija Hero, Ermina Hero, Armin Hero v. Bosnia and Herzegovina

Key Judgment


Legal Relevance

Effective Remedy | Duty to Investigate | Duty to Prosecute | Reparations | Obligation to Prevent | Deprivation of Liberty | Relatives as Victims | Right to Know the Truth

The Committee recognized the difficulties that a State may face in investigating crimes that may have been committed on its territory by the hostile forces of a foreign State. It thus held that the fact that the fate or whereabouts of the missing have not been clarified and that the culprits have not been brought to justice is not sufficient in itself to find a breach of Article 2(3). However, the Committee found a violation of the obligation to provide an effective remedy as a result of the State's failure to take any steps to pursue an investigation, and the fact that the family was able to obtain limited information only after they had requested it or after very long delays. It also found that the authorities investigating enforced disappearances must give the families a timely opportunity to contribute their knowledge to the investigation, and that information regarding the progress of the investigation must be made promptly accessible to them. The Committee reiterated that to oblige families of disappeared persons to have the family member declared dead, in order to be eligible for compensation, while the investigation is ongoing, makes the availability of compensation dependent on a harmful process, and thus constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment.

Judgment Date

October 28, 2014

Country

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Judicial Body

Human Rights Committee

Articles violated

Article 2(3) [ICCPR], Article 6 [ICCPR], Article 7 [ICCPR], Article 9 [ICCPR]

Articles not violated / not dealt with

Article 16 [ICCPR], Article 24 [ICCPR]

Facts of the Case

Mr. Sejad Hero, a member of the Bosnian army, was apprehended in his house in July 1992 by members of the Yugoslav National Army along with 12 other civilians in the context of an international armed conflict. At the time, a variety of Serb paramilitaries operated in the area, which was under the control of the Serbian Democratic Party. According to witnesses, the men were taken to a meadow, beaten and tortured. Mr. Hero has not been seen since. Exhumations which took place in 1996 in order to identify those who had possibly been killed and buried during the conflict did not produce conclusive results, and Mr. Hero's remains have not been identified or returned to his family. No investigation was carried out and no one was convicted for the disappearance. Mr. Hero's wife had to request a declaration that her husband was dead, despite having no official confirmation of his death, in order to obtain a pension and to avail herself of her rights as a family member of a demobilised soldier. In August 2006, Mr. Hero was declared dead with the official date fixed as 22 December 1996, without any explanation being given as to why such a date had been chosen. On 23 February 2006, the Bosnian Constitutional Court ordered Bosnian authorities to provide “all accessible and available information on members of the applicants’ families who went missing during the war", but the relevant institutions did not provide any information on the fate and whereabouts of the victim.

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