Sexual violence in conflict – Tools to reinforce the fight against impunity
Twenty years behind bars for the rape of two minors: the judgment given in March 2017 by a Court in Bukavu – in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – against a policeman shows that sexual violence will not go unpunished. Two years earlier, a soldier was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for the rape of two women in the same area. “Thanks to the work conducted by TRIAL International and other civil society actors, victims of sexual violence stand a better chance at obtaining justice”, says Lucie Canal, legal officer at TRIAL International.
Although sexual violence is committed by all parties to the conflict, it is often ignored or minimized. Convicting perpetrators of such crimes – in particular if these are committed during the exercise of official functions – sends a strong message: wearing a uniform is no guarantee of impunity.
To date, TRIAL International has been able to ensure that no fewer than 19 cases, involving 232 victims, were brought to justice. Five of these cases have led to a conviction for international crimes, either for sexual slavery or for rape as a crime against humanity. It is worth noting that TRIAL and its partners increasingly resort to new technologies in their documentation and litigation work. The organization has also trained 155 lawyers, prosecutors and human rights defenders to use innovative tools and techniques when documenting and prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes.
In Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH), TRIAL International’s work has led to the conviction of ten former soldiers for rapes committed between 1992 and 1995. In one of these cases, the Court of BiH ordered in 2015 that the victim, a minor at the time of the events, be provided with compensation.
PRACTICAL TOOLS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Despite the progressive development of international jurisprudence related to sexual violence, the deterrent effect remains weak and those crimes still constitute a common practice. According to TRIAL International, collaboration between all actors involved in the fight against impunity needs to be reinforced.
On 18 and 19 June, TRIAL International will be hosting an event, during which civil society organizations will present the tools they use to gather evidence, ensure the traceability of multimedia’s content, submit cases before national and international jurisdictions… Those tools, developed and tested by TRIAL International’s partners, will then be gathered in a toolbox designed for human rights defenders.
This toolbox will contain innovative legal strategies, mobile applications for the collection of evidence, guidelines for a more effective use of forensic evidence or for better data protection… Pooling such a large spectrum of tools will enable civil society actors to better support vicitms in their quest for justice.