Key steps in investigating and documenting violations of women

  • The key steps identified by Women, Law & Development International and Human Rights Watch for investigating and documenting violations of women’s human rights include the following:
    • Preparation Steps 
      • Set investigation objectives
      • Identify the violation
      • Identify key actors
      • Create an information checklist
      • Identify likely sources of information
      • Agree on a research methodology
      • Make logistical and other arrangements
        1. Identify and obtain necessary resources
        2. Select fact finders
        3. Select interpreters
        4. Establish security measures
    • Fieldwork/Investigations 

      • Decide on the type of evidence to be gathered

      • Establish parameters for interviews

      • Conduct the interviews

        1. Make careful notes
        2. Devise an indexing system to compare comments on the same incidents
        3. Keep a reminder list to collect additional information
        4. Ask for documents to substantiate information gleaned
        5. Use interview protocols
        6. Compartmentalize:  Never tell one witness what another has said
        7. Use judgment to withhold information that may jeopardize the safety or well-being of those giving testimony
        8. End the interview by thanking the interviewee and asking an open-ended question such as “is there anything else I should know?”
      • Gather secondary data

    • Follow-up and Analysis
      • Show that there is a protected right
      • Show that a women’s human rights violation occurred
      • Clearly demonstrate state responsibility
      • Identify and evaluate potential solutions
      • Report the findings -- The report should:
        1. Detail the evidence collected
        2. Vary the sources of evidence
        3. Make a clear human rights argument
        4. Include conclusions and recommendations
        5. Include the government’s response if they have received and commented on an advance copy of the report
        6. Send the final report to those interviewed
    • Ongoing Monitoring and Follow Up
      •    Advocates should commit to significant monitoring and follow-up after the investigation and documentation of human rights violations against women and girls is completed.  This is critical to any advocacy work following the release of a human rights report.  Advocates must monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the report to ensure that legislators, prosecutors, judges, police, service providers, and the media do not simply ignore the report. Advocates should plan for this effort and ensure that appropriate resources are dedicated to it. The findings from this process will inform the advocacy efforts.
      • Monitoring and follow-up may include any of the following activities:
        • Creating legislative proposals for new or amended laws addressing the documented human rights violations against women and girls;
        • Training prosecutors, judges, police, service providers and the community about the documented violations and the most appropriate response;
        • Coordinating monitoring teams to ensure the recommendations are taken seriously;
        • Observing legal proceedings that address the documented violations; and
        • Communicating with officials about their role in addressing the documented violations.

(See:  Women’s Human Rights Step by Step, Women, Law & Development International and Human Rights Watch, 153-154, 1997)

  • Additional information about monitoring laws may be found in the “Monitoring of Laws on Violence Against Women and Girls” section of this knowledge asset, including a case study on monitoring the implementation of the Bulgarian law on domestic violence.

CASE STUDY:  In the Republic of Georgia, advocates actively participated in the drafting and monitoring of the Law of Georgia on the “Elimination of Domestic Violence, Protection of and Support to its Victims” (2006). The law initially allowed police to issue restrictive orders against violent offenders in the family and it allowed courts to issue protective orders to protect victim safety.  As advocates monitored the implementation of the law, it became clear that additional amendments to the law were needed to better protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable. These included:

  • Providing an emergency order for protection
  • Allowing removal of the violent offender from the home
  • Authorizing the removal of guns from the home
  • Criminalizing the violation of an order for protection

Advocates worked together to draft amendments to the Law of Georgia on the “Elimination of Domestic Violence, Protection of and Support to its Victims” to accommodate these changes.  The amendments were not initially adopted by the Parliament.  But, after additional input by a group of experts and a change in the political situation, the amendments were adopted in December 2009.

See:  Response from the Anti-Violence Network of Georgia, March 2010.

In December 2011, the National Action Plan (NAP) on Gender Equality, or on Security Council Resolution 1325, was adopted by the Parliament with a vote of 91 to 1.  The deliberations process was executed pursuant to a model of participation that allowed for communications between a government working group and civil society organizations.  More than 25 NGOs were involved in the process, and consultative meetings were held with more than 100 organizations representing internally displaced persons.  The NAP is in effect for four years, and then will be renewed.  Its initial mandate is to expand awareness of people affected by conflict and to improve awareness and capacity among law enforcement and government officials.