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Harvey Weinstein’s quashed rape conviction sends disturbing message to women survivors of sexual violence: UN experts

07 May 2024

GENEVA (7 May 2024) – UN experts expressed concern about the impact on women survivors of sexual violence of a court decision overturning the 2020 rape conviction of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.

The experts said the decision would further weaken the confidence of victims in seeking and obtaining justice.

“We are dismayed at the way in which women survivors have been failed, survivors who risked their safety, livelihood and jobs to bravely come forward and share their ordeal,” the experts said.

The experts noted that Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison in New York, after more than 100 women came forward reporting incidents of sexual harassment and abuse. He was also convicted of rape in California, where his 16-year sentence still stands. Weinstein has also appealed the California conviction.

The New York Court of Appeals overturned the 23-year sentence in a 4-3 decision last month on the basis that Weinstein did not receive a fair trial, arguing that some women should not have been allowed to give testimony alleging sexual harassment and abuse as they were not named in charges brought against him. The Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial.

“If a new trial goes ahead, survivors will be asked to relive their alleged experiences, which may lead to further retraumatisation and unnecessary distress,” the experts said.

“While it is important to ensure that justice is upheld, it would be important that justice systems do not send the message that men, particularly those in positions of power who have committed acts of sexual violence and abuse against women can continue their lives with impunity,” they said.

*The experts: Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Claudia Flores, Ivana Krstić, Haina Lu, and Laura Nyirinkindi (Vice-Chair), Working group on discrimination against women and girls.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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