Engagement by the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict
The lack of adequate national capacity and expertise to investigate and prosecute for acts of sexual violence remains one of the main impediments to ensuring accountability for related crimes. This situation often leads to widespread impunity and has had an impact on access to justice and security and the safety of survivors. To address these issues, the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, which was established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1888 (2009), has focused its efforts on strengthening the capacity of national rule of law and justice actors, including in the specialized areas of criminal investigation and prosecution, collection and preservation of evidence, military justice system investigation and prosecution, criminal and procedural law reform, and protection of victims, witnesses and justice officials.
The Team operates under a new three-year joint programme developed in coordination with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is supporting national authorities in the Central African Republic, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea and South Sudan.
Following the visit of my former Special Representative to Colombia in May 2012, the Team contributed to the review of draft law No. 037 on access to justice for victims of sexual violence, particularly as it relates to the armed conflict. The Team also commented on the guidelines of the Ministry of Defence on sexual violence in conflict for the police and the military. Due consideration is also being given to providing support to the Office of the Attorney General to enhance its ability to investigate and prosecute for crimes of sexual violence.
In accordance with the joint communiqué signed between the Government of Guinea and the United Nations in November 2011, the Team is assisting national authorities in their efforts to investigate cases of sexual violence committed in Conakry in September 2009 and prosecute those responsible. The Team has deployed an expert to advise the panel of judges established by the Government.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Team, in coordination with UNDP, is strengthening the capacity of national authorities to investigate crimes of sexual violence committed by FARDC and other security forces in North and South Kivu and prosecute those responsible. In total, 76 military officers were trained on, inter alia, how to report cases to the Office of the Military Prosecutor. Support in investigations and prosecutions have also been provided to military magistrates and military mobile courts, in coordination with UNDP and MONUSCO prosecution support cells. These efforts have been complemented by the mapping by the Team of the major sexual violence cases committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2006. The Team has also reviewed and made recommendations on the draft bill on the establishment of a specialized court with jurisdiction over crimes committed since 1990. Its adoption will complement ongoing efforts and help address the severe capacity limitations of national authorities.
In South Sudan, the Team’s assistance focused on helping to identify and clarify legislative reform priorities relating to sexual violence and strategies to strengthen national- and state-level capacity in the justice sector. The Team conducted an assessment of the national capacity and is currently consulting on a framework of support.
The Team will continue to encourage South-South cooperation, particularly by facilitating the sharing of experiences. Such sharing is currently being considered by Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone. This approach will be promoted in other contexts, including in the Central African Republic during implementation of the communiqués signed in December 2012 by the United Nations and the Government of that country.
The Team continues to develop a roster of experts capable of complementing its work. It is also coordinating with other international entities, such as Justice Rapid Response, an intergovernmental stand-by facility, and the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.