Transitional Justice – A way of fighting sexualized violence during warfare

20 December 2011 - On 3 November 2011, ECCHR held an expert talk in cooperation with the Gunda Wernder Institute on the theme “Transitional Justice – A means of fighting sexualized violence during warfare.” The talk built on the results of a conference held in the institute in October 2010, and followed the May 2011 talk “Militarized Masculinity in (Post-) Conflict Regions”. It analyzed conditions which contribute to reconciliation after armed conflict, focusing in particular on possible ways of effectively addressing and punishing human rights abuses committed against women.


“Transitional Justice” has traditionally utilized truth and reconciliation commissions, such as in South Africa, and a range of international and national criminal courts. In part at least, both methods involve the participation of the perpetrators. It remains fundamentally questionable whether such proceedings are helpful to victims looking for justice and recompense.


With regards to international / national criminal trials, ECCHR discussed the difficulties involved in proceedings, while also pointing out the importance of domestic trials. If the legal response to sexual violence is to be sustainably constructed, then the existing problem areas need to be identified by activists and solutions need to be discussed with experts. This includes a critique of the normative construction of individual elements of crime (rape, for example) and practical ways of dealing with women who testify in court.


The workshop participants explored these points, suggesting that while we should support initial successes related to the criminal prosecution of sexual violence, we should also critique and monitor future implementation. They called for improvements in lawyer education and targeted witness protection to prevent female witnesses from becoming a tool of patriarchal power structures or being stigmatized as vulnerable. The aim is to bring perpetrators to justice.


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