Case Study Pin

DynCorp employees and international peacekeepers accused of forced prostitution and child rape in Bosnia.  

In 1999, Kathryn Bolkovac, a former United Nations police officer, accused UN officers and others working in international aid agencies of sex crimes and prostitution in Bosnia. This was not the first time such accusations were aired. Ben Johnston, a DynCorp employee too, had made internal complaints regarding the conduct of his colleagues in Bosnia. Through her investigations, Kathryn Bolkovac found how international ‘peacekeepers’ and bureaucrats kept the underground sex trade in Bosnia alive and thriving.   

Keywords: sexual violence, human trafficking, poor training, children 


Following the Bosnian War, the US government contracted the private military and security company DynCorp to provide police trainers and advisors to the UN mission in Bosnia in the late 1990s. Officers from different countries worked there under the umbrella of DynCorp.

Kathryn Bolkovac was a police officer from Nebraska who had joined the UN’s International Police Task Force (IPTF) and had come to Sarajevo in Bosnia in 1999. Due to her expertise in child abuse and sexual assault cases, she was responsible for dealing with the domestic abuse cases in Zenica, especially with regard to women who had been raped during the war. In the course of her job, her interaction with a young girl made her aware of the child rape and prostitution in the area. With subsequent investigations, she found out about the widespread trafficking of women and girls into Bosnia by armed groups and the involvement of the international peacekeepers in this prostitution ring. Allegedly, according to the local police, trafficking in this area started with the arrival of the international peacekeepers.

Bolkovac sent emails detailing the revelations she had found to more than 50 people including officials within the UN, like Jacques Klein, the UN Secretary General’s special representative in Bosnia and officials at DynCorp.

The Incidents

According to Bolkovac, women and girls were “smuggled to Bosnia to ‘to work as dancers, waitresses, and prostitutes’, forced to perform sex acts on customers to pay debts and, if they refused, were ‘locked in rooms without food for days, beaten and gang raped by the bar owners and their associates’”. These girls were trafficked from Russia, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and other East European countries. The brothels were expansive and all over Bosnia, disguised as bars, restaurants and clubs. Some of the victims were as young as twelve years old. Though raids were conducted in these establishments, they were ineffective. Following this, in October 2000, Bolkovac sent out the emails to various officials detailing the abuses.

Both Bolkovac’s and Johnston’s accounts detail how some of the DynCorp employees purchased women and children and engaged in free sex in brothels. Johnston commented about how some employees publicly boasted about purchasing women and having a sex slave at home. One of DynCorp’s site supervisors whom Johnston had initially approached to reveal the problem, later admitted to the rape of two girls and videotaping it as well. Reportedly, approximately 30-40% of the clients and almost 70% of the revenue from trafficking in Bosnia came from international personnel including the SFOR (Stabilization Force), the UN police and other international and humanitarian employees working there.

According to Bolkovac, DynCorp, which was responsible for hiring American personnel to Bosnia, did not screen its applicants well and sometimes hired personnel with little experience or questionable histories. This made them more prone to falling into cahoots with the local criminal groups.


Though Johnston made internal complaints at DynCorp, the company took no action. This prompted him to approach the US Criminal Investigations Command which did substantiate some of his allegations. While Johnston was fired by DynCorp in 2000, it was reluctant to fire the employees about whom Johnston had complained. In August 2000, Johnston sued DynCorp and in August 2002, the case was settled before it was due to go to trial. Some of the employees Johnston had complained about were dismissed or repatriated following the intervention of the US State Department.

Following Bolkovac’s emails, she was demoted to a desk job and later on fired for allegedly falsifying her time sheets. She sued DynCorp in 2001 for wrongful termination and won the case in her favor in August 2002. DynCorp was forced to pay Bolkovac only 153,000 dollars in damages. Though DynCorp appealed the verdict, it dropped it later on.

No members of the UN police or DynCorp employees were prosecuted for trafficking in Bosnia. They were instead repatriated. There was ambiguity over who had the authority to prosecute. Since the US Army did not have jurisdiction over civilian contractors, the case was transferred to the Bosnian police. However, the Bosnian police was unsure whether the immunity under the Dayton Peace Accords was applicable to these contractors and so did not prosecute them. As for DynCorp, it fired seven of its employees for purchasing women including underage girls.

The International Code of Conduct

Under the International Code of Conduct companies cannot allow their personnel to engage in or benefit from sexual exploitation, abuse, or gender-based violence or crimes. Security companies must require their personnel to remain vigilant for all instances of sexual or gender-based violence, and report these instances to competent authorities. (Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) or Gender-Based Violence (GBV): paragraph 38) 

Guidelines on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse 

Resources on Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse 

The Code also mandates that personnel of Member and Affiliate companies shall not engage in trafficking in persons and will remain vigilant for such instances and report it to Competent Authorities when discovered. The Code describes human trafficking as the “recruitment, harbouring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for (1) a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or (2) labour or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, debt bondage, or slavery” (paragraph 39). 

The Code requires stringent selection and vetting of personnel, assessment of performance and duties (paragraphs 45 to 49), and training of personnel of the Code and relevant international law, including human rights and international criminal law (paragraph 55).  

Resources on working conditions 

The Code also requires that incident reports are to be made for any incident involving its personnel and the use of weapons, criminal acts, injury to persons, etc. (paragraph 63). It also mandates the establishment of a Grievance, Whistleblowing and related procedures to address claims brought by personnel or of third parties regarding the failure of the Company to respect the principles mentioned in the Code (paragraph 66-67). 

Meeting the requirements of the Code of Conduct can help private security companies and their clients ensure that private security personnel are qualified, trained, supported, informed, and responsible.  


Despite DynCorp essentially turning a blind eye to the actions committed by its employees while being aware of atrocities its employees engaged in, DynCorp still retained its contract with the US Government for its work in Bosnia. In 2003 it also obtained a lucrative contract with the US State Department for its “War on Terror” operation. 

In 2007, the UN established a Conduct of Discipline Unit (CDU) to address similar issues. This initiative still was not sufficient as there has been a number of subsequent incidents. 

Bolkovac’s story was later adapted to a film in 2010 and was screened at the UN in New York in 2010.  


What should be the key features of a proper vetting process? 

Discuss how a better equipped internal complaints mechanism could have helped prevent further violations from taking place (like when Johnston initially complained). 

Related incidents




This case was prepared by Shilpa Suresh, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. 

Descargo de responsabilidad

De acuerdo con la cláusula de exención de responsabilidad de la página de inicio, ni la Asociación del Código de Conducta Internacional ni ninguno de los autores pueden identificarse con las opiniones expresadas en el texto o las fuentes incluidas en «Defender la Seguridad Responsable: El Mapa de Casos del Código Internacional de Conducta».