‘We come with a baggage of what we think rape is and we need to get rid of that’. These and other powerful words were spoken by leading criminal justice officials during the IIJ’s first workshop dedicated to prosecution of sexual violence crimes linked to terrorism.
This three-day workshop held February 14-16 in Kampala, Uganda with funding from the Government of Australia, brought together legal experts, prosecutors, and judges from across the region to share best practices and strategies for prosecuting sexual terrorism cases. One of the key topics of discussion was the legal frameworks – traditional, local, national and international -- for prosecuting sexual terrorism. Participants explored the challenges and opportunities presented by different legal systems and worked to identify ways to improve legal frameworks to better support the prosecution of these crimes using counterterrorism legislation, through the different interpretations of sexual violence crimes linked to terrorism.
Participants also discussed the complex interplay between sexual violence and human trafficking, how both are used as tactics of terrorism, and how to effectively prosecute cases where the criminal conduct includes both. The workshop also looked into the interplay of sexual violence sentencing with customs and religious laws in different communities. In the words of a participant who is a leading figure in the fight against Sexual Violence in Uganda, "We come with a baggage of what we think rape is and we need to get rid of that. The court should protect victims from indecent questions."
Examining the elements of crimes of sexual violence was also a major focus of group discussions. In particular, participants explored the crime of rape against all victim groups and worked to identify ways to improve prosecution. When examining mitigating and aggravating factors in sexual violence sentencing, one participant remarked, "Patriarchy in itself should be a mitigating factor."
Finally, engaged in a rich debate on ways to move international jurisprudence beyond the boundaries of rape, hearing from colleagues from the International Criminal Court on the Ongwen Case, involving former child soldier turned violent militant Dominic Ongwen. One participant emphasized, "Let our legislation tackle all forms of sexual violence and all our prosecutions would be much, much easier."