On 15 May, 2017, the UN Security Council held its annual Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The theme of the debate was: “Sexual Violence in Conflict as a Tactic of War and Terrorism,” focusing particularly on the findings of the annual report of the Secretary-General on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (S/2017/249).
The JRR-UN Women SGBV Justice Experts Roster was mentioned in the remarks of 12 Member States: Albania, Argentina, Belgium, Canada (on behalf of the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security), France, Ireland, Lithuania, Norway, Panama, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay. While the 15 May Open Debate was not the first time the JRR-UN Women partnership was recognized for its impacts in formal UN proceedings, it was the highest number of references to the Roster in one session.
Uruguay, holding the Presidency of the Council, was the first to reference the contributions of the JRR-UN Women SGBV Justice Experts Roster:
“We very much appreciate the positive impact of the panel of judicial experts at UN Women and Justice Rapid Response, who work together with the United Nations and with States to promote accountability in cases of sexual and gender based violence.”
Three members of JRR’s Executive Board referenced the unique contribution of both JRR and the partnership with UN Women:
Permanent Mission of Canada
“The systematic use of sexual violence as a weapon of war demands an effective and timely response. Member States cannot simply decry the sexual violence, without taking actions within their power to assist survivors. This is why Canada is contributing to Justice Rapid Response to help respond to and investigate sexual violence.”
Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone
“We commend the partnership between Justice Rapid Response and UN women for their initiative to address impunity for sexual and gender based violence in conflict situations. We also declare our support and solidarity to the partnership as a sign of our commitment to ending impunity for sexual violence in conflict.”
Permanent Mission of Argentina
“We welcome the work of Justice Rapid Response and UN Women, and we must continue to set the goals of their work as a priority and set them in the mandate of peace keeping operations as well as in the Security Council’s peace building efforts.”
Below is list of excerpts from the remarks made by representatives from Member States:
Permanent Mission of Albania
“It is critical that the United Nations increase their efforts to strengthen national capacities. In this context, I would like to join other colleagues and express Albania’s support for the excellent work of the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, as well as the partnership between Justice Rapid Response and UN Women for their endeavors to ending impunity for the perpetrators.”
Permanent Mission of Belgium
“We welcome the work of the Roster of Justice Rapid Response and UN Women and the impact of their work in Syria, DRC, and Burundi to ensure justice and accountability for crimes of sexual violence related to conflict.”
Permanent Mission of France
“Initiatives that need to be commended include the partnership between UN-Women and the Justice Rapid Response initiative, which seeks to train sexual violence experts to serve as a pool of personnel that could be immediately deployed in the framework of investigation mechanisms.”
Permanent Mission of Ireland
“Ireland calls for the UN and, in particular, its Member States to support sensitized and expert means to pursue accountability for sexual violence in conflict, for example the work undertaken by Justice Rapid Response and the Team of Experts.”
Permanent Mission of Lithuania
“We commend the partnership between the Justice Rapid Response Initiative and UN Women. Deployment of justice experts from their joint roster in 50 different missions greatly contributes to ending impunity for perpetrators, and bridging the gap of international and national legal frameworks to deliver justice to victims.”
Permanent Mission of Norway (representing Nordic countries including Finland and Sweden)
“We value the work of UN Action and the UN Team of Experts and the unique capacity of Justice Rapid Response in cooperation with UN Women, providing needed expertise for investigating Sexual and Gender Based Violence.”
Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom
“We must all play our part and do everything within our power to ensure these crimes are reported, that survivors are cared for, and that perpetrators, whether terrorists or state actors, are held to account. And that’s why the United Kingdom, in partnership with the UN Team of Experts and Justice Rapid Response, is running a campaign to tackle the stigma that so often surrounds survivors of sexual violence.”
The debate was chaired by José Luis Cancela, Vice Foreign Minister of Uruguay. Speakers included: Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed; Under-Secretary-General Adama Dieng, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, who is currently officer-in-charge of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict; and Mina Jaf, Founder and Executive Director of Women’s Refugee Route, on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security.
Since 2009, Justice Rapid Response and UN Women have partnered to provide the international community with expertise to investigate and prosecute sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The partnership was born out of the recognition that justice for SGBV crimes under international law has been systematically neglected.
The training and deployment of SGBV experts through the JRR-UN Women partnership has catalyzed the ability of international and national mechanisms to secure accountability for these crimes. Currently, over 200 individuals have been certified to the SGBV Expert Roster and can be made rapidly-available to assist with investigations or accountability processes conducted by governments, tribunals, or the UN.
The partnership has ensured these justice processes effectively investigate and document SGBV thereby increasing the likelihood that victims of these crimes will see justice done. As a result of the JRR -UN Women partnership, since 2009, every UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) has had a gender adviser/SGBV investigator on its team of experts. Moreover, in 2016, the UN Secretary-General’s Report on Sexual Violence in Conflict (S/2016/361) highlighted the contribution of the JRR-UN Women SGBV Justice Experts Roster to accountability mechanisms around the world.
PHOTO: A wide view of the Security Council open debate on the topic, “Women and peace and security: sexual violence in conflict”. 15 May 2017. United Nations, New York/ UN PHOTO