“The Whistleblower” chronicles the brave story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a police officer hired by military contractor DynCorp to work for the UN peacekeeping mission in civil war torn Bosnia. A police officer for ten years, Bolkovac was recently divorced and ready for a change when she came across a recruitment flyer for DynCorp. Seeing the opportunity as a great adventure and opportunity to make good money in a short period of time, she signed on to serve as a human rights investigator for the United Nations peacekeeping mission.
Although she had little knowledge of human trafficking, Bolkovac became suspicious at a DynCorp training session held in Fort Worth, Texas, before she ever left for Bosnia. Bolkovac told NPR’s Scott Simon that “[o]ne of the men who had done previous missions in Bosnia came bounding into the pool with a beer stating where he could find really nice 12-to-15 year-olds once we got to Bosnia;” in an effort to convince themselves that the comment was a misunderstanding, Bolkovac and her colleagues ignored and dismissed the comment.
Upon arriving in Bosnia, the human trafficking network and corruption within the UN, State Department, and investigative bodies was immediately apparent. “It wasn’t even well-hidden,” “[t]hese brothels were disguised as bars and restaurants and hotels and strip clubs and dance clubs, and they were just scatted throughout the hills of Bosnia. The clientele were all internationals. I mean let’s face it: the locals didn’t have the money to spend on this kind of an operation, so the international money was definitely funding the flow of the trade.”
Despite filing detailed victim reports, sometimes with highly identifiable internationals identified as the perpetrator, Bolkovac discovered that her reports were being thrown in the trash, and no action was ever taken. If fact, Bolkovac states that she had a “supervisor actually at the time who knew this was going on - a female supervisor - and she said, ‘You know, you might as well start making copies and start a file on these because this is just going to be a snowball effect.’”
According to NPR, Bolkovac was given a plethora of excuses for why the organization turned a blind eye and focused more on damage control than prevention. “Come on, this is war,” she was told. “That these women are whores of war, they’re just prostitutes, they want it. If they want out of this why don’t they whisper in our ears when we go into these bars that they’re being held captive?” (emphasis added).
There were no safe houses for the girls, and no psychological counseling. Instead, most of the girls were jailed as illegal immigrants or prostitutes, and then forced out of the country only to be picked again by corrupt policemen in their home country, and put back into the system.
Bolkovac hopes that the book and movie entitled, “The Whistleblower,” will encourage people to consider all aspects of the human trafficking problem, including corruption among our peace keeping forces, State Department and local officials; and further, that through increased training of police officers, military contractors, state officials, and similar personnel, we can crack down on the demand side and actually prevent this from happening in the future.