The RS National Assembly adopted the new Law on a Special Register of Persons Convicted of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children. Under the new law, the Register will in the future contain the names of persons who have been convicted of sexual abuse and exploitation of children and minors under any criminal code in BiH or criminal code of other countries, not only under the Criminal Code of the RS, as was the case until now.
The law was passed by a majority vote, and some MPs suggested that the Pedophile Register should be publically available.
However, the RS Minister of Justice Miloš Bukejlović held that this could stigmatize the families of convicts and prejudice the rights to personal data protection and privacy that are guaranteed under the Constitution.
Under the new Law, courts, prosecutor’s offices, institutions, associations, and organizations that may have a reasonable interest in accessing these data can access them upon request.
The Law was sought by the RS Institution of Ombudsman for Children and the RS Ministry of Education and Culture after the CIN story about teachers who, despite convictions for sexual abuse and exploitation of children, continued to work in education.
During the investigation, the reporters discovered that the teacher Velibor Vujić teaches at the Vuk Karadžić Secondary School in Lopare, although he was convicted of sexually abusing a minor in another school in Bijeljina. He hasn’t informed the school about the conviction, and the school never checked whether Vujić was in the so-called RS Pedophile Register, even though they were required to do so under the law.
However, even if the Lopare school management had done this, they would not have found Vujić’s name in the Register because his name was not entered in this database.
The Register has been in existence since 2018, and it is maintained by the RS Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Register should have included the names of all persons convicted of sexual abuse and exploitation of children under the RS Criminal Code by now. While the Register is not public, the RS Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible to respond to official requests for checks of individuals therein.
However, omissions occurred, as in the case of Velibor Vujić, hence the Institution of Ombudsman for Children, the Ministry of Education and Culture of the RS, and the RS Ministry of Internal Affairs proposed the adoption of a new Law on the Registry to update the database and change the rules on its maintenance.
“Laws are not a guarantee that protection will be provided. Therefore, it is very important to monitor the application of regulations in practice and to point out shortcomings in order to remove all obstacles to ensuring effective protection of children”, says the Children’s Ombudsman Gordana Rajić.
Under the new law, the courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be obliged to provide the RS Ministry of Internal Affairs with information on those convicted of crimes of sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
The RS Ministry of Internal Affairs also requested that the place of residence of convicts be more clearly defined in the Register to avoid abuses. The Ministry warns that the convicts were able to avoid being entered into the Register until now because they registered their residence in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Under the new law, the convicts will be entered into the Registry based on their domicile and place of residence after the verdict.
Let’s recall that CIN reporters discovered at least seven educators in Bosnia and Herzegovina who in the last ten years continued to work in schools even after being convicted of sexual harassment of children. Two of them still work in the Republika Srpska because the educational institutions claim that they did not know that their teachers had been convicted.
The Vuk Karadžić High School Center in Lopare took disciplinary action against the convicted teacher Velibor Vujić, but the school principal Mićo Stojišić told CIN that the process against Vujić will take longer because he refuses to cooperate.
Persons convicted of sexual abuse and exploitation of children are legally prohibited from working in education in the Republika Srpska, while educational institutions in this entity have obligation to check the teaching staff in the Register of Pedophiles.
“The Children’s Ombudsman plans to undertake certain activities in the coming period in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Culture so that all educational institutions in the Republika Srpska ensure the protection of students’ rights in accordance with the current legal provisions,” announced Ombudsman Rajić.