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Show of Solidarity for Bosnian Rape Victims Ends in Disarray

February 7, 1993

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ A conference called to show international solidarity for rape victims in Bosnia’s war ended in disarray Sunday when some Muslim and Croat women objected to a resolution they said was too soft on Serbs.

More than 500 women, including some of western Europe’s leading female politicians, turned out for a meeting to denounce the mass rapes reported in Bosnia and work on strategies for halting such crimes.

But their solidarity collapsed over a resolution that, while blaming Serb fighters for most of the atrocities, said men on all sides had raped women during the war.

″We refuse this resolution because it mentions only Bosnia-Herzegovina, and not Croatia, and because it equates the aggressor and the victim, saying that all parties rape,″ said Slavica Bilic of Wall of Love, a Croatian group founded in 1991.

Dafinka Vecerina, a lawyer from Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, said: ″Being raped in a park in Brussels and being raped today in a detention camp in Bosnia have nothing in common. These women were raped only because they were Muslims and Croats.″

The European Community and some international groups estimate that up to 20,000 women have been raped in Bosnia’s war, mostly Muslims attacked by Serbs. But most such reports note that some Serb women also have been raped by Muslims and Croats.

In an apparent effort to reflect that balance, the proposed resolution blamed mass rape on ″Serb war leaders ... who use sexual violence as their military strategy.″ But the proposed statement also said that ″the rape of women by men takes place by all sides.″

Most women at the meeting generally appeared to support the declaration, but it was not strong enough for a number of local women’s groups who refused to go along with it.

One rival declaration demanded that the meeting take ethnic sides and ″clearly state who the aggressors are and who the victims are of the mass sexual atrocities″ in Bosnia and Croatia.

Wars erupted in both countries after they declared independence from Serb- dominated Yugoslavia and local Serb nationalists rebelled. A U.N.-mediated cease-fire held for a year in Croatia, but fighting resumed in southern areas more than two weeks ago. The war in Bosnia has raged since last March.

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