Despite legislative reforms, deployment of gender experts, and in-house trainings, almost every criminal justice system still fails to deliver predictable and rigorous justice outcomes for sexual violence offences, including conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). Attrition rates regarding the progression of cases through the justice system are higher for sexual violence offences than for other types of crimes even in highly developed justice systems. Attrition statistics for peacetime sexual offences committed in developed and relatively well-resourced criminal justice systems can result in as low as .84% of sexual assault or rape cases ending in criminal accountability against the perpetrator. The statistics for accountability for CRSV are likely to be far worse. Furthermore, interaction between survivors and the justice process can be extremely traumatic and damaging. It is far from a survivor-centred process, and this hinders the facilitation of effective, safe outcomes. The actions, behaviours, attitudes and decision-making are mired in misunderstandings, bias and rape myths which blame, shame and ultimately hinder an objective, safe and effective justice process. A systematic review of internal influences and unfavourable factors in relation to how criminal justice systems handle SV and CRSV cases is overdue. Justice actors and systems need a better road-map on how to handle these cases.
Synergy for Justice has created an outline proto-type of such an assessment toolkit for CRSV and stigma in criminal justice systems which can analyse:
The Toolkit can be used as a whole to address system-wide issues or it can be broken into sections to focus on one specific function or concern within a court system, such as investigation, witness protection, etc. Tools could also be deployed in isolation to address known issues in one function or process within the justice system. In other words, stakeholders can use just the parts needed to tackle the issue or justice function of concern, depending on time, resources and institutional will.
The prosecution and adjudication of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) is far from the “consistent and rigorous” as called for in UNSC Resolution 2106 (2013). Attrition rates are extremely high. Less than 1% of estimated cases lead to conviction for national sexual offences in developed mature justice systems such as the US and UK. The picture is even more bleak for CRSV. An increasing multiplicity and diversification of courts are emerging in tackling CRSV, from international courts, to hybrid and local domestic courts including military courts, as well as increasing use of universal jurisdiction. The importance of adopting a gender lens in justice, through prosecutions and trial processes, and ensuring a survivor-centred non-harmful experience for survivors is increasingly recognised. Looking at the universal jurisdiction trials in Germany now proceeding on gendered sexual crimes in Syrian detention centres and on highly gendered crimes and systems of Da’esh/ISIS, we see an inconsistency and inadequate understanding and integration of gender in the charging, presentation of evidence and handling of witnesses. Trial monitoring is one vital way to help strengthen and improve justice outcomes for sexual violence and gender justice. Yet there is only patchy and ad hoc trial monitoring for the cases in Germany, and an even less systematic approach for other places. There is no consistent trial monitoring based on standard criteria or tools to assess gender justice in these criminal cases. Existing trial monitoring manuals and tools do not cover gender justice aspects, issues specific to CRSV and do not monitor survivor experiences or approaches in trial processes.
Synergy is working to remedy the gap by creating gender justice trial monitoring tools and sharing related best practices. Once the toolkit is developed, it will be shared widely for consultation and input from practitioners working at both global and local levels. Once input and suggested changes have been incorporated, the toolkit will be piloted in 1-2 locations to test effectiveness and usability. Synergy will employ a rigorous monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEAL) system to measure impact on a wide range of stakeholders.