While at first – like the rest of the world – Justice Rapid Response was challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, it nonetheless deployed a record number of 74 experts in 2020 to support justice processes across the world.
“Like other international actors, we had to quickly find ways to overcome the obstacles that the pandemic presented to our work,” said Executive Director Nina Suomalainen. “It was a learning experience, but we managed to identify opportunities to continue supporting the investigation and documentation of war crimes globally and helping victims and survivors to pursue justice.”
Nearly half of Justice Rapid Response’s deployments in 2020 were dedicated to the documentation, investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence.
The organization also deployed a record number of child rights experts, which proved the need for including children in accountability processes. Enhancing victim participation and representation was another key area of focus as Justice Rapid Response reinforced its efforts to give victims a voice at the heart of transitional justice and accountability mechanisms.
Supporting justice, remotely
Justice Rapid Response drew lessons learned from the challenges brought about due to the pandemic.
“It became clear that remote support is possible, especially when there is already a strong working relationship with partners,” said Ms. Suomalainen. “We’ve learned from this experience that remote deployment should systematically be considered as a possibility, whenever it makes sense.”
Remote support has many advantages: it can be better paced to match the needs of the requesting entity and it can take place over longer periods of time, it is less expensive, and more friendly for the environment when long-distance flights are avoided. It also has disadvantages, including the absence of in-person contacts, a high reliance on technology, as well as challenges for the experts to contextualize their support when working on distance.
“The priority for us will always remain survivor-centred justice and conducting investigations safely with the interests of victims at the heart of what we do,” said Ms. Suomalainen.
In addition to deployments, three planned recruitment courses were successfully converted from in-person classroom courses to entirely online training modules. These virtual courses maintained the high quality of Justice Rapid Response’s process of preparing and vetting criminal justice experts from all over the world for certification for its roster of more than 700 experts.
In 2020, Justice Rapid Response’s diverse roster stemmed from more than 110 nationalities, speaking more than 90 languages, with 45 percent from the Global South and 59 percent women.
Click here to view the full report: Annual Report 2020: Striving for Justice Amid the Pandemic