Dear Reader, Herein, I bring to you a copy of press statement released by Refugee Law Project on March 8, 2021, as the world held its 44th commemoration since the UN officially recognised International Women's Day (IWD) in 1977 to recognise achievements in the struggle for women's empowerment and gender equality. Since the historic UN Security Council Resolution of the 32nd regular session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1977, March 8 has become an important day in modern history when it comes to the struggle for gender justice. From its first commemoration in Uganda in 1984 (pioneered by then first lady Miria Obote) IWD has evolved considerably.
When peacekeepers are equipped to understand, respond to and prevent some of the dynamics that can destabilise an often fragile peace, then their value is greatly enhanced in post-conflict situations. This is particularly the case if they are able to engage pro-actively on issues of conflict-related sexual violence and its ‘post-conflict’ manifestations in the form of sexual exploitation and abuse. The report offers testimony to the value of such training endeavours, as well as to the importance of the International Protocol as a guiding document around which to organise both the content and the process.
In the statement to mark the occasion, RLP asked the question; What if we responded to sexual violence in conflict as an existential threat? The press statement took a critical look at what the national and international response to COVID-19 has taught us thus far about our collective potential to end sexual violence in conflict. If we can mobilise the resources and will to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, if we can close airports and public transport to better control the virus, couldn’t we do the same to better control sexual violence in conflict? While COVID-19 has directly harmed our capacity to respond to survivor needs in the short term, it has also made clear that to eliminate sexual violence in conflict we need a sea change in how it is perceived. We need to see it as the existential threat it undoubtedly is, and invest time, effort and resources correspondingly.
Despite the existing legal frameworks prohibiting torture, torture continues to be used in conflict situations and even during supposedly peaceful times. Even prior to the pandemic, incidents of torture by security organs featured in the news. In the last three months, however, these appear to have been exacerbated by the pandemic, with Uganda’s national news dominated by the ordeals of citizens who have been tortured by security organs such as the Police and Local Defense Units (LDUs) in the name of enforcing presidential directives related to COVID-19. Uganda is not alone in this; other countries such as Kenya and India have also seen incidents of torture of civilians in the course of enforcing of COVID-19 directives. What happens when an institution like Uganda Police Force, one of the institutions mandated to receive cases of torture, is itself implicated in violating the non-derogable right to freedom from torture?
Children come into contact with the justice system for various reasons. The 2019 Situation Analysis on Children in Uganda shows that 27% of children have been exposed to a crime. Despite the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) position that ‘putting children in prison should only be the last resort and for the shortest time possible’, there are children in many of Uganda’s detention facilities. Whereas many children come into contact with the law, many more suffer at the handsof adult abusers. UNICEF’s 2018 situation analysis shows that 44 percent of girls and 59 percent of boys aged 13-17 years had experienced physical violence in 2018. The outbreak of COVID-19 has further heightened the challenges as reporting and response mechanisms are temporarily affected.
A thought-provoking blog piece written by Wokorach Mogi, our SGBVP Officer – Kampala Office. In his piece, titled “The Loud Silence: The plight of refugee male survivors of conflict-related sexual violence” Mogi brings out his extensive experience in the complex field of working with refugee male survivors of Conflict-related Sexual Violence (CRSV) in Kampala, Gulu and Nakivale. He explicates key challenges male survivors grapple with, especially focusing on dilemmas in seeking and uptaking services so as to (re)gain their full functionality as well as lead dignified lives.
Uganda Counselling Association (UCA) is pleased to invite you to the Annual Conference that will take place from March 25-27, 2020 at Silver Springs, Hotel, Bugolobi, Kampala and AGM on March 27, 2020.
The international criminal law (ICL) system can only hear and describe a tiny fraction of what people experience, particularly when it comes to sexual violence. The ICL system not only makes it difficult for victims to disclose their experiences, but often misplaces, deprioritises and erases the sexual elements of violence under other headings such as ‘torture’ and ‘inhumane treatment’. This is what inspired ‘Call It What It Is’, a campaign designed to enable victims to freely testify in a system where sexual violence is better articulated.
Launched in The Hague in June 2019, the IGC Justice Impact Group’s first project on advancing understanding of all forms of sexual violence is making steady progress. The Declaration is available in English and in French and will soon be available in Spanish and Arabic. The three documents (the Civil Society Declaration, the ICL Guidelines and the Key Principles for Policy Makers) will together form The Hague Principles on Sexual Violence.
Despite tremendous technological advancements, increase in number of ‘experts’ with spectacular insights on laws and policies to make this world a better place, international community still grapple with disturbing cases and statistics of human rights abuses including conflict-related sexual violence. Consequently, the need to empower national and international practitioners on documentation and investigation has suffused among humanitarian and development actors as one of the measures of tackling impunity and guaranteeing non-repetition of human rights abuses and violations.