Women cheer in a court room.

Improving Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Accountability in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings

In 2018, the Human Rights Center began looking at how to strengthen accountability for sexual violence using digital open source methods. HRC and the International Institute for Criminal Investigations brought together a group of open source investigators, gender experts, and experts on investigating sexual violence to begin developing a guide on using digital open source methodologies to investigate sexual violence in conflict settings. Workshop participants discussed how to create a victim-centered approach to online investigations of sexual violence. These perspectives will be synthesized in a companion guide to the Global Code of Conduct for Gathering and Using Information about Systematic and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, also known as the Murad Code after Nobel Laureate Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist.

We conducted the first-ever multi-country study of legal accountability for sexual violence in countries marked by recent armed conflict and/or political violence. The Long Road: Accountability for Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings, published in 2015, identifies key challenges and promising strategies for improving accountability in Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.

Three woman in white coats with brown hair smile at the camera. They are at a hospital.
Head nurse, social worker, and psychologist at the Gender-Based Violence Recovery Center in Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Kim Thuy Seelinger.

Partners

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International Human Rights Law Clinic University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

Missing Peace Practitioners’ Workshop

As part of a global movement to end wartime sexual violence, more than 80 legal, health, and law enforcement leaders from six African countries met in Kampala, Uganda, in late August 2015 for the Missing Peace Practitioners’ Workshop. The workshop provided a rare opportunity for frontline responders — from Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan — to discuss their work on the ground and to trade the tools and techniques they use to document and prosecute sexual violence and support survivors. 

Workshop participants discussed new findings from a groundbreaking, four-country study on conflict-related sexual violence launched at the workshop by HRC. The study highlights barriers to investigating and prosecuting sexual violence and recommends better training and more funding for individuals on the front lines. Workshop participants brainstormed the role of these frontline responders in reporting, investigating, and prosecuting sexual violence that occurs during periods of armed conflict and other emergencies. 

A group photograph of many people on a flight of stairs.
Participants from the August 2015 Missing Peace Practitioners Workshop in Kampala, Uganda.

Handbook for the Investigation, Prosecution, and Adjudication of SGBV Crimes in Uganda

After participating in our multi-country research on domestic accountability for conflict-related sexual violence (2011-2015), African colleagues with careers in law enforcement, the military, and the judiciary asked us to help distill global guidance on investigating conflict-related sexual violence into practice tools they could use in their home jurisdictions. With Ugandan prosecutors, police, military personnel, judges, and healthcare workers, we developed a handbook on SGBV investigation, prosecution, and victim support – including in cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

People walk on a road.

Trainings and Technical Assistance for National Actors

We are often invited to provide technical assistance to local investigators, prosecutors, and judges who are taking on cases involving sexual violence as war crimes or crimes against humanity — often for the first time in their national systems. Sometimes, we help prosecutors and judges properly charge or evaluate evidence of conflict-related sexual violence, as in the trial of Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad. With international experts, we coordinated the drafting of an amicus curiae brief to clarify ways in which evidence of sexual violence could be charged. In May 2016, Habré was convicted of crimes including rape and sexual slavery.

Right: Survivors of sexual violence perpetrated by former Chadian president Hissène Habré cheer as he is convicted of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture, including sexual violence and rape by an international tribunal in Senegal in 2016. Image by Kim Thuy Seelinger.

Women cheer in a court room.

News

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March 17, 2020

Survivors, Hashtags and Justice: The Ethics of Investigating Sexual Violence Online

Commentary — #Verified from the Human Rights Center: Survivors, Hashtags and Justice: The Ethics of Investigating Sexual Violence Online, authored by students Catherine Chang and Kavya Nambiar.

Khadidja Zidane holds a picture of her as a young woman, newly married, before she was arrested and raped by Habré. Photograph: Ruth Maclean

May 10, 2017

Hissène Habré’s rape acquittal must not be quietly airbrushed from history

Commentary — The Guardian: Hissène Habré’s rape acquittal must not be quietly airbrushed from history, authored by Kim Thuy Seelinger. Left: Khadidja Zidane holds a picture of her as a young

August 26, 2015

Police to institute sexual violence unit

HRC in the News — New Vision: Police to institute sexual violence unit, reporting on the ‘Missing Peace Practicioners’ Workshop and writing about the report “The Long Road:

A centre where women share experiences and weave baskets for income helped this 11-year-old girl in the Congolese town of Bunyakiri to start putting her rape ordeal behind her. Photograph: Morgana Wingard/USAid

August 26, 2015

Local support key to achieving justice in sexual violence cases, claim researchers

HRC in the News — The Guardian: Local support key to achieving justice in sexual violence cases, claim researchers, writing about the report “The Long Road: Accountability for Sexual Violence in

Several buildings on a dirt road.

February 16, 2015

A 12-year-old rape victim was detained and allowed to die on the way to a Liberian hospital. Here’s why.

Commentary — The Washington Post: A 12-year-old rape victim was detained and allowed to die on the way to a Liberian hospital. Here’s why, authored by Kim Thuy Seelinger.