top of page
The documentary

”Mission Rape - a Tool of War”
a film by Katia Forbert Petersen & Annette Mari Olsen

The directors about the documentary

We began shooting this documentary more than 20 years ago on a floating hotel “Flotel Europa”, which was docked in Copenhagen Harbour. 1000 people were accommodated here after having managed to escape the war in Bosnia (the Balkan War 1992-95). Most of them were women and children. A group of women in the communal kitchen told a desperate story about mass rape used as a weapon to chase them out of their homes and their country – in order to accelerate ethnic cleansing. The fact that rape was used as a weapon of war came was a shocking revelation. One would think that such atrocities had been put to a stop after WW2, at least in Europe. It was hard to grasp. And this was our incentive to make the documentary, but it took a number of years before we were emotionally sturdy enough to tackle the subject.


The use of rape as a weapon and strategy of war has grown enormously. The 20th century saw more mass rapes in wars than ever before. This ancient method of ethnic cleansing and conquest of territories continues.


The war in Bosnia was the case chosen for the documentary "Mission Rape - a tool of war". After twenty years the memory of this war is still fresh with us, and it is a part of European history, in which also Denmark played a role. The time perspective makes it possible to expose the consequences. When a woman is raped, the entire family is affected. It disintegrates due to shame and humiliation that will later transform into hate and a desire for revenge.


The subject of the film moves in a decidedly off limits territory on a personal as well as political level. The shame that victims of rape carry around will stick and permeate the entire society and afflict the following generations. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, politicians, peasants, women from all walks of life were raped – and girls as young as 12. Our documentary bases these issues on a gallery of characters and their testimony - the strong ones who fight for a legal settlement, and those who have almost become zombies and cannot move on in life, although it all happened so many years ago. They share a mutual tragedy and a mutual feeling that the torturers will never be prosecuted for rape. The film testifies to the women’s thoughts, physical condition and lack of legal support.


When the war ended, those responsible were not sentenced, neither by local courts nor by the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague (ICTY). Legislation does not focus on the situation of the war-raped women, and without legal justice they find it hard to get on in life and regain their self-esteem. The rapists from the war are at large, whereas the women are afraid to return to their homes. In court cases about war crimes, rape constantly falls down on the agenda. The documentary shows how the War Crime Tribunal in the Hague downgrades the rape that was committed against one of the main characters of the film by a high-ranking and notorious officer from the war.

The political world in Bosnia prefers the women to be silent. It focuses on reconciliation between the warring countries, and the 25,000 to 40,000 women, who were exposed to mass rape, are left alone with their despair. Only 61 war criminals have been convicted of rape during the war in former Yugoslavia. Systematic mass rape continues as a strategy of war in present day wars.

It is a complex subject in human as well as historical and political terms. We have built our documentary around seven chapters, seven terrifying stories. The seven stories are not fiction. They are the truth. A truth that feels inhuman, unreal and unjust..

Mission Rape Trailer with uk subtitles
Play Video

About the documentary

"Every day a group of women meet in an association in Sarajevo. They have a mutual history. Like 25,000 to 40,000 other women they were raped during the Balkan War in 1992-95. Systematic mass rape was part of the war strategy. Legal justice is their only hope to regain self-esteem and integrity. But jurisprudence lets them down. So far only 61 men have been sentenced for rape committed during the war. This legal dilemma makes up the pivotal point of the film. All the while systematic mass rape continues in present day wars and conflicts."


Film documents Bosnia rape victims' anguish in absence of retribution

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 21 Feb 2014 05:14 AM


The filmmakers found that Bosnian authorities have failed to offer enough mental health support to Balkan war rape victims.


“My husband and children were crying… They had raped my daughter,” Bakira Hasečić, a prominent women's rights activist from Bosnia, said on camera.


“They hit her in the head with their weapons. There was panic in the house. My screams could be heard miles away.”


She says she was also raped, under the threat that her entire family would be killed if she did not satisfy the soldier.


“These are traumas you live with, you sleep with and you wake up with. There is no medical eraser that can erase it from your mind,” she said. “The greatest pain we carry is the lack of justice, for without justice we’ll never regain self-esteem and peace in our souls.”


Hasečić heads Women Victims of War, a Sarajevo-based organisation set up in 2003 that helps survivors access healthcare, and legal and financial aid. She is just one of the 25,000 women listed in her NGO’s war rape victims database.

The documentary is produced by The documentary is produced by Sfinx Film/TV with support from The Danish Film Institute, DR, EU Media, SVT, Oak Foundation Denmark, BHRT and TVP Film/TV with support from The Danish Film Institute, DR, EU Media, SVT, Oak Foundation Denmark, BHRT and TVP

- The documentary "Rape a tool of war" had its world premiere in the Grand Theater in Copenhagen Denmark in March 2014


- Frederik Harhoff, international law expert and former judge at The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. (ICTY)

- Birthe Weiss, Minister of the Interior during the Balkan War, journalist and author.

- Libby Tata Arcel, Clinical psychologist, Lecturer emerita, University of Copenhagen.

- Bjørn Elmquist, lawyer, chairman of Retspolitik Forening.

- Moderator Christoffer Guldbrandsen Editor at DR2.



- several times at the international summit "End Sexual Violence in Conflict" held in ExCel London - organized by then Foreign Minister William Hague and special UN envoy Angelina Jolie.

- in Oslo Norway,  in connection with the international summit "End Sexual Violence in Conflict" organized by the British Embassy together with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

– in Bornholm Denmark, at the "Folkemødet" - organized by the British Embassy together with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Danish Film Institute.



Danish TV DR2

Swedish TV SVT

Bosnia-and-Hercegovina TV BHRT

Polish TV TVP

Icelandik TV RUV 



- Kosovo Dokufest.

- Vienna International Human Rights Film Festival.

- BIFFES in Bengaluru, India - organized by the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, Government of Karnataka in collaboration with the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce.  – IDFA, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.


- Nominated for the Oxfam Global Justice Award. 

- Nominated for PRIX EUROPA TV-IRIS Category, The European Broadcasting Festival Berlin. 

- Mumbai Film Festival, India - The Real Reel section.



- Against Our Will – 40 Years After: Exploring the Field of Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict Conference • Hamburg Institute for Social Research.

Panel discussion

Panel discussion
Frederik Harhoff
expert on international law and former judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)
Birthe Weiss
Danish Home Secretary during the Balkan War, journalist and author
Libby Tata Arcel
clinical psychologist, former associate professor, University of Copenhagen
Bjørn Elmquist
attorney-at-law, former Danish MP, chairman for the Politico-Legal Association, Denmark
by moderator
Christoffer Guldbrandsen
editor at DR2, Denmark

bottom of page