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Last edited: August 15, 2013

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  • Working to improve access to justice is not only about rebuilding the justice sector to address current and future incidents of violence, but also about ensuring access to justice for survivors of conflict-related VAWG. Past experience shows however that in post-conflict settings national authorities often fail to investigate and prosecute violence that occurred during conflict due to (excerpted from Amnesty International, n.d., unless otherwise noted):
    • A lack of political will
    • Political decisions made to establish amnesties protecting the perpetrators
    • The collapse of the national legal system
    • Inadequate national laws criminalizing the crimes
    • Other legal obstacles to justice, including statutes of limitations and immunities 
    • State authorities themselves being implicated in these crimes (OHCHR, 2006, pg. 29-32).
  • In these cases, where accountability through the national justice system is impractical or impossible, other mechanisms, such as transitional justice, international and internationalized justice mechanisms should be considered. It is crucial that VAWG actors in post-conflict settings understand the different types of mechanisms available so they can advocate for them where appropriate, monitor them, and provide support to survivors in accessing them. VAWG actors should consider the following strategies and interventions (excerpted from UNHCR, 2006 and Samuels, 2006, unless otherwise noted):
    • Ensure that elements of internationalized courts statutes and rules are consistent with the highest standards of international justice
    • Advocate for the prosecution of all cases
    • Advocate for cooperation with other states 
    • Advocate for financial contribution to the courts from other states – and own state
    • Support the creation of appropriate mechanisms
    • Conduct advocacy and education to inform survivors of their rights in regard to these mechanisms
    • Ensure that mandates specifically include gender justice as a human rights violation as well as an inclusive definition of VAWG (for example, the Rome Statute definition of sexual violence which is the most inclusive definition in international law)
    • Monitor the mechanisms for compliance with human rights, inclusion of gender responsive procedures
    • Ensure that rules and procedures are in place to protect witnesses
    • Provide capacity training of staff, and technical assistance for actors involved
    • Assist the justice mechanisms to foster a culture of accountability and address impunity
    • Assist governments to understand their obligations under international human rights standards regarding women
    • Support the participation of women from the outset in forming and shaping justice mechanisms (UNWOMEN, 2011)
    • Develop programmes that allow victims to prepare adequately and participate meaningfully in the prosecution process
    • Work with prosecution teams, truth commissioners and other actors to develop an approach that addresses a number of key issues, such as risk assessment, realistic expectations, prosecutorial strategy, the role of witnesses, the rights of victims, and what to expect from the prosecuting authorities in terms of treatment, communication and transparency
    • Ensure that local actors are consulted from the outset so that approaches are not perceived as being a foreign imposition.