The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight for Justice 

When Nebraska police officer and divorced mother of three Kathryn Bolkovac saw a recruiting announcement for private military contractor DynCorp International, she applied and was hired. Good money, world travel, and the chance to help rebuild a war-torn country sounded like the perfect job. Bolkovac was shipped out to Bosnia, where DynCorp had been contracted to support the UN peacekeeping mission. She was assigned as a human rights investigator, heading the gender affairs unit. The lack of proper training provided sounded the first alarm bell, but once she arrived in Sarajevo, she found out that things were a lot worse. At great risk to her personal safety, she began to unravel the ugly truth about officers involved in human trafficking and forced prostitution and their connections to private mercenary contractors, the UN, and the U.S. State Department. After bringing this evidence to light, Bolkovac was demoted, felt threatened with bodily harm, was fired, and ultimately forced to flee the country under cover of darkness―bringing the incriminating documents with her. Thanks to the evidence she collected, she won a lawsuit against DynCorp, finally exposing them for what they had done. This is her story and the story of the women she helped achieve justice for.
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (June 21, 2011)

https://www.amazon.com/Whistleblower-Trafficking-Military-Contractors-Justice/dp/0230115225

Reviews

From Booklist

Review

“Kathy is a remarkable woman who had the courage to tell the truth and stand up for the victims of sex trafficking, putting her own life on the line. I was deeply moved by her story and hope her voice will be heard, raising awareness about the tragic consequences of war.” ―Rachel Weisz

“Most galling is the sad truth that DynCorp answered to no law, nor to the military, the U.S., or the Bosnians…Infuriating and heartbreaking.” ―Booklist

“Bristles with disturbing details and heartfelt compassion.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Bolkovac and co-author Lynn successfully evoke the paranoid atmosphere of a suspense film…the authors shine a light on a neglected area of widespread human suffering…Along with the film adaptation, this book will hopefully draw attention to an underreported tragedy.” ―Kirkus

“Women and girls trafficked into Bosnia and Herzegovina’s brothels endured debt bondage, rape, and beatings. International police and peacekeeping forces should have protected these victims. Instead, some committed trafficking crimes. Kathy Bolkovac bravely blew the whistle on them. She paid a high price in her career, but had the integrity to take a stand against grave human rights abuses.” ―Janet Walsh, Deputy Director, Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch

“Rape and forced prostitution perpetrated on a pervasive, ongoing scale by police, military, and other groups protected by regional and even national governments continue to occur into the 21st century. Regrettably, and quite amazingly, these violent and degrading events do not receive the attention and universal condemnation that a civilized society should demand. Kathryn Bolkovac and Cari Lynn have demonstrated great personal courage and admirable moral strength in addressing such egregious conduct in The Whistleblower. A highly disturbing and fascinating expose’ based upon frightening real life experiences.” ―Dr. Cyril Wecht, nationally acclaimed forensic pathologist and author of Mortal Evidence

“A true story of suspense by a former Nebraska police officer who went to work for a private contractor in Bosnia. There she discovered human-rights violations, including a network of sex trafficking, and fought to bring down its perpetrators, no matter who they were. It’s a tale of cover-ups, scapegoats, greed and indifference. And learning that the abuses continued will make readers crazy.” ―Omaha World-Herald

Amazon Reviews:

All about Kathryn Bolkovac

After seeing the heavily fictionalised movie I decided to read the book it was based on, to find out how the alleged human trafficking of women as prostitutes into Bosnia had actually played out. I’m sceptical about the usual cliché story where young women from impoverished Eastern European countries are offered lucrative regular jobs in the West and are then forced into prostitution. I simply find it hard to believe that this old chestnut of a trick could have ever worked. While the movie heavily exploits the subject of forced prostitution — doe-eyed girls in skimpy clothes being shouted at by guttural Bosnian mafiosi — it’s not really at the center of the book. Author Kathryn Bolkovac is a former US-American cop who was used to prosecuting prostitution in general — no matter whether voluntary or forced — and I was never really sure whether that aspect ever made much difference to her.

Most of the book deals with the bizarre situation of policing post-war Bosnia by a private company who was contracted by the US State Department. This apparently lead to the hiring of rent-a-cops of dubious integrity, who then spent their money and free time in illegal brothels. When the news of these misdemeanours spread, the company acted swiftly and vigorously — by firing Kathryn Bolkovoac.

Kathryn Bolkovac has an interesting story to tell, but unfortunately I was interested in a different aspect of the events. She makes a gripping case against the privatisation of core police and military services. Unfortunately she also comes across as conceited and pretty self-righteous. It seems to be a standard angle in so many US-American biographies that you first have to suck up to the reader and present yourself as super-nice, super-healthy and super-normal before you’re allowed to tell your story. It really put me off that Bolkovac presents herself as your regular American mum who only went abroad to make ends meet, whereas the people around her are depicted as unhinged soldiers of fortune chasing a quick buck.

 

The perils of relying on contractors for overseas policing

Following the breakup of federated Yugoslavia (under Tito), into multiple linguo-ethnically-based states (Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia, etc.), Lincoln, Nebraska policewoman Kathryn Bolkovac decides to sign up for the international police mission in ethnically-torn Bosnia.

She is joining a group of international police officials known as the IPTF, the International Police Task Force. She feels it is time for a change in her life and that she can make a difference.

It’s a well-paid mission that will allow her to make twice her salary, tax-free. By virtue of her training and experience, she is well-qualified for the job. Much to her surprise, DynCorp, the Fort Worth, Texas-based American contractor which has been contracted by the U.S. Government State Department to run the operation, conducts only a cursory screening and interview. After a short-while, she is on her way to Bosnia.

She quickly finds out that many of her fellow DynCorp colleagues are minimally qualified for this sort of work, lacking in police experience. Worse, several of her DynCorp superiors are burn-outs, has-beens, incompetent, lazy, corrupt or all of the above. Worst of all, she finds some of her DynCorp colleagues and superiors are themselves engaged in criminal conduct or its cover-up.

This is the tale of her figuring out the situation in Bosnia, while attempting to accomplish meaningful police work. Her special niche of expertise is in investigating gender-based trafficking which she finds to be rampant in Bosnia.

Her first year is marked with considerable success as she applies her training and experience in the investigation of human trafficking and forced prostitution. By her second year, her work has begun to bear fruit as cases are brought to trial.

Without giving anything away, the discoveries she makes in her second year result in her forced reassignment, demotion and eventual firing.

This is a cautionary tale which should raise questions about the use of contractors whose behavior cannot be controlled, mandated or prosecuted. While serving overseas, contractor personnel are essentially immune from prosecution for any unlawful acts they commit.

There have been recent changes that require that overseas military contractors adhere to the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), which renders them responsible for unlawful acts and subject to prosecution. However the State Department and other civilian agencies within the Federal Government continue to make use of DynCorp, Halliburton, Kellog Brown and Root, Blackwater and other contractors which do not adhere to military justice protocol.

The use of unqualified or minimally-qualified personnel, the rapid turnover of staff and the opportunities for self-enrichment through corrupt practices, graft, price-gouging, bribery and extortion are there.

Bolkovac’s journey from the International Police to whistleblower is a good, solid read. My interest is such I would have liked more details about the cases she was building, had she been able to complete them, i.e., “the rest of the story.”

In the last chapter, she lists three suggestions for improvement in the use of contractor personnel. Based on her experience, I would have liked to learn what other rules or principles she would suggest to see in place. For that reason I give it four stars instead of five.

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