The Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Violence

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Kim Thuy Seelinger, Helene Silverberg, Robin Mejia
Publication Date
May 1, 2011
Publication Type
Working Paper
Conflict, International Criminal Law, International Humanitarian Law, Public Health


Despite the increasing acceptance of sexual violence as a crime under both national and international law, many victims still encounter great difficulty obtaining justice. This paper explores specific challenges that can arise in the investigation and prosecution of sexual violence, as well as promising responses to these challenges. It reviews the barriers that deter victims from bringing sexual violence cases, the obstacles to coherent and gender-sensitive investigation and prosecution of sexual violence-based crimes, and the challenges — especially for victims — of ensuring successful trials. Ultimately, the outcome of these prosecutions can have legal, historical, psychosocial and security implications that reach well beyond those victims who testify. This paper is part of a Working Paper Series published by the Sexual Violence and Accountability Project, at the Human Rights Center. Along with three other Working Papers, it was drafted in preparation for the “Sexual Offences Act Implementation Workshop” to be hosted by the Human Rights Center in Kenya, in May 2011. It will be presented to the cross-sectoral stakeholders tasked with responding to sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya, with a view to introducing key issues arising in the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes in both “domestic” and “international” contexts.