Eleven Bosnian women relayed horrifying tales of rape, torture, forced prostitution, kidnapping, and killing in a U.S. civil trial against Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. The victims are seeking millions of dollars, and charge Karadzic with ordering Bosnian Serb military personnel to commit atrocities against Croats and Muslims in a genocide plot in the early 1990s. The women took the stand, telling their stories through sobs and screams, displaying evidence of severe anxiety as a result of the torture. One victim, now 65 years old, reported being raped daily and burned with an electric cattle prod. The trial is expected to end today, but whether the victims will collect damages is doubtful.
The case comes under U.S. jurisdiction through a 1789 law, the Alien Tort Claims Act, which was originally designed to punish acts of piracy and protect U.S. ambassadors in foreign countries. The law gives non-U.S. citizens the right to file civil suits in the U.S. for injuries suffered in violation of international law. It has been applied to cases like this since the 1980s, although most defenders ordered to pay damages have yet to pay. Karadzic has not been present in the NY courtroom to present a defense, and is currently in hiding from a UN tribunal seeking him on genocide charges. The Bosnian women’s case was filed by noted feminist scholar Catharine MacKinnon, who pioneered sexual harassment law in the U.S.