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  • Victoria Taban & Clara Giaminardi

International Justice Day: let's recognise victims' humanity.

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

17 July 2022 is International Justice Day, marking 20 years since the entry into force of the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC).

© Jean-Baptiste Dodane (jbdodane), International Criminal Court in The Hague, 2017 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Our work with survivors of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in Sudan and South Sudan highlights the importance of justice and reparation for survivors of conflict related sexual violence. "When you have been dehumanised by the worst atrocities, a recognition of your rights is a validation that you are human," says Mariana Goetz, Rights for Peace Director.

"It is because I am a human being and not an animal that I have these rights. The dignity that belongs to me needs to be restored." - survivor of CRSV South Sudan

In spite of fundamental progress on paper (the ICC Statute affirmed landmark rights for victims in its Statute adopted in Rome on 17 July 1998), victims of mass atrocity crimes continue to be an abstract afterthought in transitional justice processes.

"If I did not have a right to reparation I would die of stress" - survivor of CRSV South Sudan

This is why our programme on victims' justice focuses on survivor centered approaches to transitonal justice. What does this mean in practice?

Survivor centered approaches starts with ensuring victims' rights as outlined in the 2005 UN Basic Principles on Victims' Rights to a Remedy and Reparation.

These rights are as much about the process of justice and how victims can engage with them, as they are about concrete outcomes. They include:

  • the right to be informed of processes that affect victims

  • the right to be treated with dignity and respect for privacy

  • the right to assistance, protection and support in accessing justice

  • the right to play a part in the process, to participate as appropriate

  • the right to an effective remedy (such as an investigation) without undue delay

  • the right to reparation

Transitional justice mechanisms for South Sudan are outlined in Chapter V of the 2018 Peace Agreement (R-ARCSS). Almost four years later, the three mechanisms in the Agreement - a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a Hybrid Court and Reparations Authority - are yet to be implemented. We urge the African Union Commission to hasten the process and ensure the establishment of the Court and to ensure access to justice for the victims of South Sudan.

"The more impunity lasts, the more violence will continue", says Jackline Nasiwa, Director of the Centre for Inclusive Goverance, Peace and Justice in South Sudan. "There are attempts to bring perpetrators to justice through military trials like the one in Yei - but these are weak. The AU should support victims and take action to establish the Hybrid Court without delay."

Further north in Sudan, sexual violence is being weaponized against minority ethnic groups in Darfur and Kordofan as well as women human rights defenders in ongoing pro-democracy protests. Our recent report "Can we Prevent renewed Mass Atrocities in Darfur" (June 2022) on the current crisis in Sudan, highlighs the lack of accountability of past atrocity crimes during the Al-Bashir regime are now emboldening a repeat of similar patterns of violence today. Accountability, and empowering survivors to achieve it, is a cornerstone in preventing renewed atrocites.

© EU/ECHO, Darfur Crisis, 2008 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

To learn more about our work on justice and reparations for CRSV survivors, you can read our Study on the Status of and Opportunities for Reparations for Survivors of CRSV in South Sudan, or blogs about our activities on the ground.

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