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البيانات المفوضية السامية لحقوق الإنسان

التحقيق في العنف الجنسي في حالات النزاع: الدروس المستفادة والاستراتيجيات المستقبلية

11 حزيران/يونيو 2014

11 June 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen,

OHCHR has long been monitoring conflict-related sexual violence, mainly through the work of its field presences and through fact-finding missions into specific incidents.

OHCHR’s investigations into sexual violence have been instrumental in promoting protection responses, criminal investigations into specific incidents and legal and institutional reform to overcome obstacles to accountability. Also, in follow-up to the documentation of incidents, OHCHR has provided support for national prosecutions.

Let me give you some examples from our work in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):

  • On 21 December 2003, more than 100 women were raped in the village of Songo Mboyo, DRC, when a battalion mutinied in the village. Following the attack, human rights officers went into the village and started an investigation. Gradually women developed the confidence to talk about the rapes. The second day, a group of women came out of the bushes, where they had been in hiding since the attack, as soldiers had stolen their clothes. Human rights officers documented the incident and put together a list of alleged perpetrators. Once back in Kinshasa the human rights officers undertook advocacy with the authorities and the military justice system and arranged to take the military prosecutor back to the village to open an official investigation. While human rights officers could not share the names of victims with the prosecutor for confidentiality reasons, their very presence encouraged survivors to come forward and testify. This resulted in the first conviction of sexual violence as a crime against humanity in the country.
  • In follow-up to a public report on an investigation into mass rapes and other violations in Mambassa, DRC, a special force was sent to clear the area and ensure protection of the population. Subsequently, a strengthened presence of peace-keepers was ensured.
  • In its recently launched report on progress and obstacles in the fight against impunity for sexual violence, the Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC highlights how it provided support to mobile courts and to military prosecutors to enable the investigation of serious and credible allegations of sexual violence in remote areas. It also carried out training for military judges and prosecutors. These efforts resulted in the conviction of a number of members of the Armed Forces and of the National Police.

Though our work to support national prosecutions of sexual violence in DRC and elsewhere, we have drawn a number of important lessons:

  • Given the reticence to report sexual violence, broader investigation strategies targeting a variety of violations are in some contexts more likely to elicit relevant information. They in fact allow for contacts with sources that may be otherwise overlooked and assist in avoiding fear of stigmatization.
  • It is important to work closely with the authorities from the outset of an investigation and to bring the authorities closer to the victims. Advocacy with judicial and other authorities is also important to ensure support for and cooperation with the investigations.
  • Putting in place protection measures for the victims is crucial to encourage them to remain engaged with judicial proceedings. In the recently concluded Minova trial, in the DRC, the UNJHRO fielded regular missions to talk to the survivors and ensure they were not suffering retaliation. Also, it worked with its partners to ensure more patrols by peace-keepers, as well as measures to protect the identity of victims.
  • Judicial proceedings and other accountability processes must be empowering for the victims and be accompanied by sensitization for their communities. In the Songo Mboyo case a hearing of the trial was held in the village, which proved to be very powerful to empower victims and heal the wounds of the communities
  • referring victims to existing medical and psycho-social services is not only a necessary ethical consideration, it is also important for victims to be provided with the support necessary to participate in accountability processes. In the DRC, arrangements were put in place, whereby victims interviewed by OHCHR would be referred for medical and psychosocial support to partner organizations. Also, after the work of the Guinea Commission of Inquiry was finalized, a staff from the secretariat remained in the country and assisted several survivors in obtaining medical attention.
  • Partnerships with local women's groups can strengthen capacity to document sexual violence. Women's groups can provide information, undertake outreach, provide support to victims providing testimony, draw attention to overlooked issues and help understand patterns of abuse.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I need not emphasize the importance of applying sound methodologies to the documentation and investigation of violations. Techniques and methodologies have been developed to overcome the specific challenges of documenting sexual violence, always with the safety and well-being of victims as paramount concerns.

The Protocol gathers good practices in the documentation and investigation of sexual violence and represents an important tool to strengthen documentation/investigation efforts by all relevant actors. In promoting the application of the Protocol, a couple of important points should be kept in mind:

  • HR documentation/investigation follows a solid methodology and has increasingly been able to support national and international prosecutions. However, it is different in aim and methodology from criminal investigations. The aim is broader and the methodology allows for greater flexibility, crucial for the production of timely information that can feed into protection and prevention responses by the authorities or the larger international community.
  • HR documentation is a highly specialized task and should only be undertaken by professionals with a specific training. Otherwise risks include destroying evidence for future prosecution and exposing victims to harm.

I see a lot of value in engaging in a dialogue with national authorities on how to contextualize the Protocol to different realities and provide support to strengthen their capacities to investigate sexual violence.

  • The need to enhance capacity for the investigation of sexual violence is illustrated by the recent Minova case decision. Although an OHCHR/MONUSCO report documented 135 cases of sexual violence perpetrated by the army in Minova, DRC, in November 2012, the evidence presented to the operational military court of North Kivu resulted in the acquittal of 13 of the 39 members of the armed forces who were accused of rapes and other crimes. The majority of the others were convicted on lesser charges, as there had been deficiencies in the investigations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To conclude, I would like to stress that as we look at ways to strengthen national capacities to investigate sexual violence we should be mindful that this is only one part of the equation. We must also address other obstacles that victims, particularly women, face in the path to justice, including inadequate legal framework, financial, logistic and procedural obstacles, lack of legal aid and witness and victims protection measures. Corruption and general tolerance of violence against women can affect the willingness of the justice system to prosecute. Also, if reparations are not paid, victims and their families may see little interest in engaging with a slow, costly and potentially stigmatizing process and may remain silent or look for out of court settlements. Sadly, the victims of Songo Mboyo are still awaiting the compensation ordered by the court.

This summit represents an important opportunity to garner global support and commitments to efforts ensure that all obstacles on the path to justice and accountability can be removed.

Thank you.

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