Prosecuting sexual violence as an international crime: A review of the 2018 cases

29.04.2019 ( Last modified: 07.01.2020 )

In 2018, more than 30 trials were initiated in over 15 countries, from Guatemala to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Colombia. At least 18 guilty verdicts were delivered, sometimes against multiple defendants. “(Un)forgotten” constitutes TRIAL International’s first attempt to present an overview of the prosecution of sexual violence as an international crime around the world.

For victims of conflict-related sexual violence, justice is not always a stepping-stone on their path to reconstruction. However, when it is perceived and asserted as a priority, justice becomes a multifaceted objective. While some victims may request an official and public acknowledgement of their suffering, others will focus on returning home and reintegrating into their community. Similarly, while certain individuals will find justice in the provision of financial compensation, others will define it as holding perpetrators accountable.



Although TRIAL International’s report focuses on perpetrator accountability, it undoubtedly touches upon the various forms justice can take, and demonstrates that prosecuting sexual violence often goes beyond a mere conviction. “We hope that this first report will be used as a practical tool by legal practitioners and judicial authorities throughout the world”, said Lucie Canal, legal advisor and coordinator of the publication. “Moreover, we hopes that it will encourage civil society actors to engage with existing legal systems and to strengthen their coordination in the support they bring to survivors. Last but not least, we hope that it will allow survivors to see that justice, as imperfect as it may be, can be achieved.”

None of the investigations or trials included in this report constitute clear-cut, easy, or ordinary cases. Behind every page resides courage and fear, victory and disillusion, betrayal and cooperation. In fact, we do not solely address successful prosecution, as we believe it is crucial to draw and apply lessons from all cases – both from best practices and from challenges.

Read the full report online or download your digital copy here

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