Honorary degree for campaigner against war crimes

03 July 2018

An internationally acclaimed campaigner against genocide and sexual violence has spoken of her continuing fight for justice for women victims of war in Bosnia, more than 20 years after the conflict ended.

Bakira Hasecic, founder of the Association of Women Victims of War, received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws in recognition of her outstanding contribution to human rights and justice for women in Bosnia, on the first day of the GCU summer graduation ceremonies.

Receiving her award, Ms Hasecic, 65, said: “I am so grateful to Glasgow Caledonian University for this recognition, not just for me, but for the women of Bosnia and all survivors of genocide and sexual violence. We have fought so hard for so long to have our voices heard, and the honour that you give me here today sends a powerful message to the world that we will not be silenced, and that no matter where you are from, together we can fight for a better world.“

Addressing a packed audience at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, she continued “In Bosnia, we have been fighting for over 20 years for justice, and every day our fight continues, but I refuse to be afraid of those who try to silence me. Many people in Bosnia still refuse to acknowledge what happened to us, and many survivors today have to live among the perpetrators of genocide and wartime rape who have not been brought to justice.”

“This is why it is so important and such a blessing to have the support of Glasgow Caledonian University and Remembering Srebrenica. Days like today prove that together, we can come together to challenge hatred and break the silence.“

In 1992, Ms Hasecic suffered rape alongside her daughter during the Bosnian war. By 1995, 17 members of Bakira’s family had been killed during the campaign of ethnic cleansing which accompanied the conflict.

Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE Vice-Chancellor of the University, met Ms Hasecic when she travelled to Bosnia in 2017 as part of a delegation organised by the charity Remembering Srebrenica Scotland.

Professor Gillies said: “Today we honour Bakira Hasecic, in recognition of her truly outstanding contribution to human rights and justice for women in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bakira boldly fights for justice for women who were victim to the most unimaginable evils, but she fights for all women, regardless of religion, regardless of nationality. It is humbling indeed to be in the presence of such a brave and principled woman, a woman who is an inspiration to us all.

“Guided by a desire for justice, rather than revenge, and in what was a demonstration of true strength and courage, Bakira encouraged survivors back to their hometown in 1998.  In 2003, this extraordinary woman founded the Association of Women Victims of War to pursue justice and ensure that the war criminals guilty of crimes against Bakira, her family and community were held to account for their acts.  Bakira just doesn’t believe it when the authorities say they can't find the criminals and there are many occasions when she and sister women from her organisation have tracked them down themselves and passed on their location to the police, an action which has resulted in arrests. So it isn’t surprising that she regularly receives death threats.

“To date, the organisation has sought out 82 war criminals who remained in society and contributed to bringing them to justice through the courts of Bosnia, at The Hague and even at the court in Paris.”