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Recent Events/News

LAW Submits Written Observations to the ICC on the Situation in Myanmar: October 2019, The Hague

On 24 October 2019, LAW submitted written observations to the International Criminal Court supporting the prosecutor’s request to open an investigation into the situation in Myanmar. The submission supported the request of the prosecutor, setting out the views of survivors interviewed by LAW, including male survivors of sexual violence. The views of Shanti Mohila, a group of more than 400 Rohingya women and girls supported by LAW, were also detailed in the submission.  

The submission highlighted the unanimous support of survivors of sexual violence for an ICC investigation into crimes that took place in Myanmar. These include the crimes against humanity of forced deportation, persecution and other inhuman acts, and the crime of genocide. 

The prosecutor was authorised to open an investigation on 13 November 2019. In its decision, the Pre-trial Chamber highlighted that, “victims unanimously insist that they want an investigation by the Court.” 

Justice for the Survivors of Gendered Crimes – The Case of Myanmar: 19 September 2019, Geneva

On 19 September 2019, LAW organised “Justice for the Survivors of Gendered Crimes: The Case of Myanmar,” a side event to the forty-second session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, co-sponsored by the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva, and the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations in Geneva. The event, which was attended by almost 100 representatives from dozens on countries, brought together members of the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, senior legal experts and survivor representatives to discuss how survivor-centred justice can be secured for gendered crimes in the context of Myanmar.

Key speakers included Julian Braithwaite (Ambassador and Permanent Representative, UK Mission to the UN, Geneva) Marzuki Darusman and Radhika Coomaraswamy (Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar), Nicholas Koumjian (Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar(IIMM)), Khin Ohmar (Progressive Voice), Antonia Mulvey (Legal Action Worldwide) and Peter Haynes QC (President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association). The discussion was chaired by Ambassador Veronika Bard, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations.

UK Ambassador, Julian Braithwaite, highlighted important work done to date in his opening remarks, including the development of the Murad Code, which sets out the expected standards of behaviour when gathering evidence of sexual violence for courts in conflict situations. Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the IIMM, underscored the changes needed in criminal proceedings around sexual violence crimes, especially, in ensuring survivors and witnesses are not retraumatised during investigation or trial.

LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, highlighted the importance placed by survivors upon justice. In this respect, she emphasised the importance of including survivors, from the affected communities, in discussions about justice moving forward.

In August 2019, the IIFFMM published “Sexual and gender-based violence in Myanmar and the gendered impact of its ethnic conflicts” which describes military use of sexual violence as “hallmark of the Tatmadaw’s operations in northern Myanmar and in Rakhine,” used “with the intent to intimidate, terrorise and punish the civilian population and as a tactic of war.”

Joint Statement on Delay to Terrain Case Appeal, 6 September 2019

On 6 September 2019, LAW, along with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, released a joint statement condemning the prolonged delay to the appeals in the murder and sexual assault case arising from the 11 July 2016 attack on the Terrain hotel in Juba, South Sudan.

A missing case file has not been seen since it was sent to President Salva Kiir in 2018, meaning the Supreme Court cannot move forward  with appeals by the victims and those convicted one year after 10 soldiers were convicted for the sexual assault and rape of at least five aid workers, and the murder of a journalist during the attack.

The appeal could set an important precedent for future prosecutions in rape cases in South Sudan, where sexual violence is widespread and has been used as a weapon of war since December 2013.

You can read the statement in full, here.

LAW Africa Field Mission: July 2019

In July 2019, LAW undertook a field mission to further engage South Sudanese SGBV survivors, listening and documenting their views, concerns, demands for justice and reparations for the violations they suffered. Survivors continue to emphasise their demand for justice and comprehensive reparations that take into account their daily challenges, such as medical care and education. One survivor said that “I want my issue to be taken seriously. The right steps should be taken to bring justice for what the government and the soldiers have caused me.”  Another survivor stated that “the government of  South Sudan should be brought to justice for what happened during the war and the soldiers held accountable.”  

South Sudan’s armed conflict, led to thousands displaced and killed, has had a staggering effect on women and girls, with sexual violence being widespread and systematic. There have been minimal efforts to bring justice to survivors. LAW is working close to them to enable them to obtain legal redress for the violations. In December 2018, LAW supported 30 South Sudanese in their groundbreaking complaint to the CEDAW Committee in Geneva, in relation to sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, gang-rape and sexual slavery, perpetrated by the army of South Sudan.

You can find more about LAW’s work on South Sudan here, and more information on the Communication before the CEDAW Committee here. 

LAW’s 5th Birthday, Launch of Legal Action Lebanon: 19 June 2019, Beirut.

On 19 June 2019, LAW celebrated its fifth birthday and the launch of Legal Action in Lebanon. The event was held on the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, in order to bring attention to ongoing sexual violence committed in conflict globally and to highlight the work LAW is doing both in Lebanon and globally to increase access to justice for the survivors of these violations and abuses.

The event was attended by approximately 100 guests from Embassies, United Nations agencies, national and international non-governmental organisations and journalists. The speakers at the event were United Kingdom Ambassador Chris Rampling, European Union Ambassador Christina Lassen, and LAW’s Founder and Executive Director Antonia Mulvey. His Excellency Ambassador Rampling highlighted the work of UK government’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) and described LAW as an organisation that is ‘strengthening justice for survivors and shattering the culture of impunity.’ The EU Ambassador spoke about the work LAW does to provide vital legal support to migrant domestic workers,  a particularly under-served community. Antonia called for all partners to work together to help ‘turn victims of sexual violence into survivors, and to shift the shame of sexual violence from the survivors to the perpetrators.’

Ending Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Humanitarian Crises: 23-24 May 2019, Oslo

On 23 and 24 May 2019, LAW participated in “Ending Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Humanitarian Crises” – an international conference held in Oslo, Norway. The key objectives of the conference included to :

  • mobilise stronger political commitment to prevent incidents of, and protect people at risk of, SGBV and conflict-related sexual violence, and to ensure that the response is life-saving, timely, and promotes the needs, rights and dignity of survivors and those at risk;
  • mobilise additional financial resources, especially for SGBV response through UN coordinated response plans and for the ICRC’s 2019 special appeal; and
  • highlight best practices and lessons learned from efforts to prevent and respond to SGBV in humanitarian situations, and help improve the evidence base in this field.

On 23 May, LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, chaired a panel discussion as part of the Oslo Conference, “Moving from a culture of impunity to a culture of deterrence,” which brought together leading experts in conflict, healthcare and international law to discuss how accountability for sexual and gender-based violence and access to justice for survivors of these crimes can be improved.

On 24 May, LAW and Human Rights Watch issued a joint statement calling for increased access to improved, survivor-centred medical and legal services in the immediate aftermath of crises, including access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. The statement also called for increased funding and support to local women-led and survivor-led civil society groups. You can read the LAW and Human Rights Watch statement in full here or watch Phil Robertson (Human Rights Watch) delivery of the statement in Oslo here.

LAW establishes office in the Netherlands: May 2019, The Hague

LAW is delighted to announce that we have established a presence in the Netherlands! LAW’s office in The Hague will form part of LAW’s Global Practice, focusing on ground-breaking research, high-level advocacy and cutting-edge strategic litigation. We look forward to bringing you more information about our work in The Hague soon!

The Hague, Netherlands. UN Photo/Andrea Brizzi.
LAW Executive Director speaks at UN Women Event in New York: 24 April 2019, New York City

On 24 April 2019 at the United Nations in New York, LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, spoke at “Strengthening The Work Of The Security Council On Sexual & Gender-Based Violence In Conflict: The Strategic Use Of Evidence From Un Investigations,” a panel discussion coinciding with the UN Security council open debate on sexual violence in conflict.

Speaking about her experience as former gender advisor to the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Antonia highlighted: “When I interviewed survivors, they said ‘we want justice … Many of them cannot read or write, but they know what justice is, and they wanted accountability.”

You can read more about the event here.

Legal Strategies and Psychology for Prosecuting Sexual Violence Cases: Ahungalla, 8-11 April 2019

On 8 – 11 April, Legal Action Worldwide, in partnership with the Sri Lankan Attorney General’s Department, hosted a training, “Legal Strategies and Psychology for Prosecuting Sexual Violence Cases,” on the prosecution of serious sexual offences for thirty-five prosecutors in Ahungalla, Sri Lanka.

Following the training our Sri Lanka Head of Office, Jessica Stober, received an award from the Attorney General of Sri Lanka.

You can read more about LAW’s work in Sri Lanka here.

Ensuring Representativeness in Open Source Human Rights Research: Swansea, 10-11 April 2019

On 10 and 11 April 2019, LAW participated in ‘Ensuring Representativeness in Open Source Human Rights Research’ a workshop hosted by the University of Swansea and organised by OSR4Rights. Human rights investigators and staff from both non-governmental organisations and the United Nations human rights system; academics from law, human rights, computer science, geoinformatics, statistics, and cognate disciplines examined the extent to which open source evidence can be said to be representative of affected populations in investigations of mass atrocities and human rights violations, how this may affect investigations, and whether and how issues of informational bias can be overcome or mitigated.

House of Lords Debate on Securing Accountability for Sexual Violence: London, 2 April 2019

On 2 April 2019, Baroness Hodgson of Abinger intiated an important debate in the House of Lords (the Upper House of the UK Parliament) on conflict related sexual violence, in which she asked the UK Government: what assessment they have made of the adequacy of international mechanisms to hold perpetrators of sexual violence to account; and what steps they are taking to ensure justice for survivors.

This debate followed a June 2018 GAPS/INGO Panel Discussion on this topic, in which panellists, including LAW’s Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, had highlighted the difficulties in holding perpetrators of sexual violence to account, despite the number of treaties and mechanisms under international and regional law, designed to bring about justice.

You can read the debate in full here.

Youth Peace Champions Event: Colombo, 2-4 April 2019

Congratulations to LAW’s Transitional Justice Champions!

Pavithra Rajendran, Rajeevi Mapalagama, and Lahiruni Ekanayake (pictured left with LAW staff) were selected to represent LAW as young peacebuilders following LAW’s transitional justice course for 23 law students from University of Colombo in August 2018, in a project funded by the United Nations Peace Building Fund.  They presented at the Youth Peace Champions Event from 2 – 4 April 2019, organised by our partner National Peace Council of Sri Lanka. Students from 12 universities from across Sri Lanka came to share their ideas on reconciliation and transitional justice. They used short plays, skits, lectures, and short films to creatively present on Sri Lanka’s transitional justice process, tackling issues that can be difficult to talk about with mere words. LAW’s champions delivered their idea for Sri Lanka’s future truth commission.

Stand Speak Rise Up: Luxembourg, 26-27 March

On 26 and 27 March, LAW attended the inaugural Stand, Speak, Rise Up! international conference in Luxembourg, hosted by HRH the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. The international conference sought to identify means of ending conflict-related sexual violence, placing survivors of sexual violence at the centre of discussions. In addition to the Grand Duchess, speakers included Nobel Prize winners, Dr. Dennis Mukwege, Nadia Murad and Professor Muhammad Yunus. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, Special Representative of the UN Secretary general on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, Pramila Patten and former President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga were also amongst the speakers. Importantly, a number of survivors of sexual violence discussed their experiences, including at a Gala Event on the evening of 26 March.

Legal Action and Legal Agenda Regional Conference: 21-22 March 2019, Beirut

On 21 and 22 March, Legal Agenda and Legal Action Lebanon held a regional seminar on women and justice in the Arab region.  This discussed key issues related to women’s rights in the region. The four main topics, Ijtihad in religion; equality; protection; and rejection of social marginalisation, we discussed by deputies, lawyers, judges and professionals from Lebanon and around the Arab region. Participants sought to promote effective means of achieving gender equality, including through strategic litigation. LA’s Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, shared today her experience in investigating and addressing sexual gender-based violence in Somalia, occupied Palestine, South Sudan and Myanmar, as well as in Lebanon.

Shanti Mohila speaks at the Human Rights Council: 11 March 2019, Geneva

On Monday 11 March, Hamida Khatun, a member of Shanti Mohila, became the first female member of the Rohingya directly affected by 2017 ‘clearance operations’ by Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) to appear before the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Legal Action Worldwide is proud to support Hamida in this historic event.

In her statement, Hamida described her experience fleeing Northern Rakhine State following the attack on her village and murder of members of her family. She emphasised that her experience is not unique and that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are currently based in impoverished refugee camps in Bangladesh. Hamida set out three key requests from Shanti Mohila to the international community: Justice including compensation; to return home in safety and security including citizenship; and access to education.

Shanti Mohila are a group of 400 Rohingya refugee women and girls based in Bangladesh having fled during ‘clearance operations’ by the Tatmadaw in 2017. Shanti Mohila are represented by Legal Action Worldwide.

You can find out more about LAW’s work with Shanti Mohila and on the Rohingya Crisis here.

You can read Hamida Khatun’s statement here.

Making Technology Work for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: 18-19 February 2019, Geneva

On 18 and 19 February 2019, LAW and OHCHR co-chaired ‘Making Technology Work for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence’ in Geneva. The expert roundtable brought together leading minds from different fields, including law, gender and technology to explore how technological innovation could be used to address sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated in the context of armed conflict. Participants discussed how existing innovations addressing serious rights violations could be adapted for conflict contexts. Key areas of dialogue included the use of technology in: preventing sexual violence; improving security for survivors and rights defenders; interviewing survivors; and the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.

LAW Executive Director interviewed for the Today Programme (BBC Radio 4): 28 December 2018, London
LAW gathers victim applications from Shanti Mohila (faces obscured for security reasons)

On 28 December 2018, LAW’s Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, was interviewed by the BBC’s Mishal Husain for a special episode of the Today Programme, guest edited by Angelina Jolie. The episode focused on conflict-related sexual violence and its impact on women and girls.

Antonia discussed her time as gender and children investigator to the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar and LAW’s work representing Shanti Mohila, a group of 400 Rohingya women and girl refugees based in the camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, having fled the violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar. LAW and partner Global Rights Compliance, are assisting Shanti Mohila in preparing a victims submission, to be provided to the International Criminal Court.

Landmark Case against South Sudan: 6 December 2018, Geneva

On 6 December, Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) submitted the first ever case against the Government of South Sudan for the rape, mass rape and sexual slavery of 30 South Sudanese women and girls by members of the South Sudan army and the Presidential Guard. The case was lodged at the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva. “[T]ens of thousands of young girls and women have been subjected to horrific sexual violence by Government security forces. To date almost no one has been held accountable. We have to ask ourselves: Why are we not doing more to protect them?” said Antonia Mulvey, Executive Director of LAW. “This is a landmark case which is the first step on a long road to justice for all women and girls in South Sudan.”

You can find out more about LAW’s work on South Sudan here.

Meeting with Independent Complaints Mechanism: 19 November 2018, Mogadishu

On 19 November 2018, LAW staff met with  those involved in LAW’s Independent Complaints Mechanism, in Mogadishu, Somalia.  LAW is establishing an Independent Complaints Mechanism in IDP camps in Mogadishu and Kismayo (South Central Somalia) allowing a safe, secure means of reporting rights violations or abuses. Alongside this, LAW has stablished a Civilian Oversight Board,  which visits police stations in Mogadishu to document standards and record the concerns of detainees. Both the Civilian Oversight Board and Independent Complaints Mechanism have a particular regard for complaints involving sexual and gender-based violence.

Violations of International Law and occupied Palestine: 15-16 November, London

On 15 – 16 November, LAW chaired ‘Violations of International Law and occupied Palestine,’ a closed Roundtable, at the offices of Bindmans LLP in London.

The Roundtable brings together experts to discuss ongoing transnational litigation cases, strategies and challenges and provide updates on relevant thematic issues. The forum is closed and all discussion is confidential – one of the purposes is to provide a space in which litigators can think creatively and share ideas. It is one of the few spaces bringing Israeli and Palestinian lawyers together in a neutral environment where they can speak freely and confidentially.  Topics of discussion included the role of multinational organisations involved in the occupation of Palestine, Palestine’s application to institute proceedings before the International Court of Justice against the United States of America regarding the transfer of its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the innovative use of technology in securing accountability for violations of international law.

Prevention and Response to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) for Conflict Victims: The Case of the Rohingya: 7 November 2018, Geneva
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. March 2018. UN Women/Allison Joyce (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On 7 November 2018, LAW and its partner, the Permanent Mission of Sweden in Geneva, co-organised a closed roundtable, ‘Prevention and Response to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) for Conflict Victims: The Case of the Rohingya.’ The Roundtable brought together brought together a range of experts and stakeholders from the humanitarian and human rights sectors to discuss the practical implementation of proposals identified at a March 2018 Roundtable, ‘Addressing Sexual And Gender Based Violence: Innovative Legal Solutions’ focusing on the Rohingya Crisis as an example.  

LAW Executive Director speaks at Civil Military Relations Seminar: 6 November 2018, Kungsängen, Sweden

On 6 November 2018 LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, spoke at a Civil Military Relations Seminar, organised by the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre in Kungsängen, Sweden. Antonia spoke about the role of the military, including UN Integrated Missions, in prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence.  Additionally, Antonia highlighted the difficulties faced by many survivors in accessing justice and opportunities for collaboration between military and civil society to address this.

LAW Global Retreat: 25- 26 October 2018, Nairobi

On Thursday 25 and Friday 26 October 2018, LAW had its first annual global retreat in Nairobi, Kenya. Staff from LAW’s offices around the world participated in the two-day retreat, discussing LAW’s successes to date and identifying key next steps for improvement and expansion.

LAW Executive Director at HRC39: September 2018, Geneva

LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, has participated in a number of side-events to the 39th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Antonia (second from right) speaks at the ‘Women under Occupation’ panel

On 17 September, Antonia participated in ‘Cycle of Gender-Based Violence,’ a panel discussion organised by Euromed Feminist Initiative, in partnership with LAW, the Coalition of Syrian Women for Democracy and the Women’s UN Report Network, discussing ongoing sexual and gender-based violence in Syria and around the world. Antonia highlighted the need for improved information gathering, especially by first responders, increased use of technology and the importance of shifting stigma from the survivors to the perpetrators of sexual violence.

On 24 September Antonia was a key speaker on ‘Women’s Rights Under Occupation.’ Here, Antonia emphasised the disproportionate impact of the ongoing occupation of Palestine upon women. Antonia and the panellists discussed potential avenues for redress open to Palestinian women, and the opportunities and challenges involved.

In her capacity as gender advisor and sexual and gender-based violence investigator to the UN Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar, Antonia participated in the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) launch of guidance on ‘Integrating Gender into Human Rights Investigations.’ During this event, on 25 September, Antonia underscored that, “trained SGBV investigators were crucial to uncovering the horrific scale of sexual violence occurring in Myanmar.”

LAW Press Statement on Convictions for Terrain Hotel Compound Attack, 7 September 2018

Legal Action Worldwide  welcomes the conviction and sentencing of ten soldiers for the July 2016 rape of aid workers and murder of a local journalist during the attack at the Terrain Hotel Compound in Juba, South Sudan. LAW further calls on the Government of South Sudan to secure accountability and end impunity for the thousands of instances of sexual violence, as well as other grave human rights violations committed in the country’s civil war.

Read LAW’s full press statement here.

Access to Justice Training Workshop: 23-26 July 2018, Mogadishu

Legal Action Worldwide  welcomes the conviction and sentencing of ten soldiers for the July 2016 rape of aid workers and murder of a local journalist during the attack at the Terrain Hotel Compound in Juba, South Sudan. LAW further calls on the Government of South Sudan to secure accountability and end impunity for the thousands of instances of sexual violence, as well as other grave human rights violations committed in the country’s civil war.

Read LAW’s full press statement here.

House of Lords Panel Discussion: Sexual Violence in Conflict: 20 June 2018, London
L to R, the Panellists: Antonia Mulvey (Exec Director, LAW), Baroness Hodgson of Abinger CBE (Chair), Halima Adan (Save Somalia Women and Children), Rosy Cave (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Joe Read (CARE).

On June 20th , LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey participated at House of Lords panel discussion Sexual violence in conflict: Reclaiming women’s agency through law, policy and practice,” moderated by Baroness Hodgson of Abinger CBE,  co-chair of the APPG on Women, Peace and Security. 

Mulvey explained that, while there has been great progress in developing the international frameworks to address sexual violence, justice for many survivors remains remote. Pointing to the Somali Sexual Offences Bill as an example, she emphasised the importance of improving domestic legal frameworks and their implementation. Collaboration between civil society, government and military, Mulvey highlighted, is vital.

 

International Day for the Elimination of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: 19 June 2018, Nairobi

LAW’s Nairobi Office marked 19 June, the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict with an event jointly hosted with Physicians for Human Rights. Head of Africa Programmes Stella Ndirangu spoke to the audience about the impact of sexual crimes on women in South Sudan and Somalia, highlighting the significant social stigmatisation and lack of legal assistance for victims. Other speakers discussed the ongoing impact of the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008, marking the 10th birthday of children born from rapes during that time. 

LSE WPS Event: Strengthening legal responses in Somalia: 19 June 2018, London

On 19 June, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, Somali Minister for Women and Human Rights Development, Her Excellency Minister Deqa Yasin Hagi Yusuf and LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey spoke about the development and progress of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill, at an event hosted by the Centre for Women, Peace and Security (WPS) at London School of Economics.

The event Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: Strengthening legal responses in Somalia,chaired by  WPS Director, Professor Christine Chinkin, provided insight into the challenges and opportunities of drafting the Bill and advocating for its passage.

Sexual violence in Somalia remain widespread, pervasive and carried out with almost total impunity. Since 2013, the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development and LAW have been working on the drafting of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill and advocacy calling for its passage. On 30 May 2018, the Cabinet of the Federal Government of Somalia unanimously accepted a landmark Sexual Offences Bill. Following this achievement, the efforts continue, as the Bill must now be passed in the Lower House of the Parliament. 

Addressing Sexual and Gender-based Violence: Innovative Legal Solutions: 31 May 2018, Geneva.
From left to right: H.E. Veronika Bard, Ambassador at the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN in Geneva; Dennis McNamara, Senior Humanitarian Advisor at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue; Antonia Mulvey, Executive Director at LAW

On 31 May, LAW and its partners, the Permanent Mission of Sweden in Geneva and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue co-hosted a closed roundtable in Geneva, Switzerland. The event ‘Addressing Sexual And Gender Based Violence: Innovative Legal Solutions,’ brought together a range of experts and stakeholders to discuss innovative legal solutions to conflict-related sexual violence.

Sexual violence remains a highly effective weapon of war in a number of ongoing armed conflicts. It has a devastating and long-lasting collective impact, forcing displacement and destroying connections to homes, families and communities thereby inhibiting return. It is used as a means to terrorise, attack and alter the identity of persecuted groups.

Through creative legal thinking and close collaboration, LAW and its partners seek to ensure that survivors of sexual violence have real access to justice and that impunity for these crimes is ended. The success of this roundtable will now be measured in how the ideas discussed can be realised and effectively implemented.

LAW to host Harvard-funded Legal Fellows
A former LAW Fellow helps coordinate a workshop in Somalia.

LAW is delighted to announce that two Harvard University-funded Masters Law students will be joining LAW’s offices in Nairobi and Colombo this autumn.

Conor Hartnett is a Henigson Fellow joining LAW’s team in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he will be involved in the gamut of LAW’s South Asian projects. Conor brings a wealth  of valuable expertise in human rights and transitional justice, and has previously worked on issues relating to Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar.

Alejandra Elguero Altner will join LAW’s office in Nairobi, Kenya, as a Satter Fellow where she will work on LAW’s projects to address sexual and gender-based violence. Alejandra has an impressive track-record in addressing the rights of women and girls. This includes experience working on conflict-related sexual violence for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

 We look forward to Alejandra and Conor joining the team!

MeToo, AidToo: the Next Steps: Geneva, 22 March 2018

LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey spoke with IRIN senior Editor, Ben Parker, for his article ‘MeToo, AidToo: The Next Steps’ which discusses sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector.

Antonia called for more prosecutions of serious cases. She noted that often when staff abuse their power in order “to obtain sex in fragile or conflict-affected areas,” their actions are deemed sexual exploitation and abuse. “This is incorrect,” she said, “this is rape… We must start calling this conduct rape and demand that perpetrators are criminally prosecuted.”

You can read the article in full here.

Working better together for the future of Somalia: Mogadishu, 1 March 2018

On 1 March 2018, Legal Action Worldwide attended “Working better together for the future of Somalia,” a roundtable discussion that considered the working relationship between civil society and government in Somalia. The roundtable coincided with the launch of EU support for civil society in the fields of culture, media, peace building and human rights. At the roundtable, legal advisor, Clare Brown, presented LAW’s forthcoming project to establish Independent Complaints Mechanisms (ICM) in Mogadishu and Kismayo in South Central Somalia. LAW’s partner KAALO is piloting a similar project in Puntland. The ICM will receive complaints relating to human rights abuses perpetrated by members of the security forces. It will compliment the work of the Civilian Oversight Board, also established by LAW.

Due Process and the Rule of Law in Somalia: Mogadishu, 5 February 2018

On 5 February 2018, Legal Action Worldwide held a high-level panel discussion in Mogadishu on allegations of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law by security forces in south central regions of Somalia, including extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention. The panel, chaired by LAW’s Executive Director Antonia Mulvey, discussed the key findings and recommendations from the report ‘Due Process and the Rule of Law in Somalia,’ soon to be released by LAW. A copy of the Preliminary Key Findings and Recommendations are now available here.

The Swedish Ambassador to Somalia Hon. Andreas von Uexkull opened the event. Panellists included high profile members of the Somali government, civil society and the UN: Attorney General Ahmed Ali Dahir, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator Victor Lelei, Somali Youth Cluster Coordinator Muna Hassan and UN Assistance Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) Human Rights Chief Kirsten Young.

Research by LAW identified four key violations that are occurring in Somalia, perpetrated by Security Forces: the right to liberty and security through arbitrary arrests and detention; the right to fair trial before military courts; the right against torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and the right to life through summary executions and extrajudicial killings.

A key recommendation of LAW’s report is for prompt, independent and impartial investigations into credible allegations of serious due process violations. This includes the establishment of an Independent Commission and for the Attorney General’s office investigation unit to be sufficiently resourced; that a National Security Law, Office of the Ombudsman Law, Legal Aid Law, Sexual Offences Bill, Anti-Torture Law, Counter-terrorism Bill and Land Law be enacted; that external oversight systems of the security forces be developed and existing initiatives be better coordinated and supported; and that access to justice for victims of due process violations be increased by establishing an Independent Complaints Mechanism in pilot IDP camps.

You can read the full media release for this event here.

16 Days of Activism 2017: 25 November -10 December 2017

The UN 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence takes place every year between 25 November and 10 December (International Human Rights Day). Around the world, organisations and institutions Orange the World,” using the colour designated by the UN to campaign to symbolise a brighter future without violence for women.

For the 2017 16 Days of Activism, Legal Action Worldwide prepared a series of info-images that informed our followers about violence against women, and the steps being taken to combat violence against women. On International Human Rights Day, LAW released a short video interviewing different civil society actors in Somalia about the importance of the passage of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill. You can watch the video, and see LAW’s info-images here.

How to Create an Advocacy Campaign, Mogadishu: 18 – 21 November 2017

On 18 – 21 November 2017, LAW conducted a training on creating an advocacy campaign for civil society organisations in Mogadishu, Somalia. The training was facilitated by Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) and award-winning, Mogadishu-based international video journalist Christina Goldbaum. It was supported by the Canada Fund for Legal Initiatives and attended by 20 Somali activists, 13 of whom were women. The training focused on the development of advocacy strategies and materials designed to increase the engagement of Somali civil society with government decision-makers and the international community. You can read more about this training here.

The training also resulted in a real joint advocacy statement developed by participants during the session on written advocacy techniques, relating to the passage of the Sexual Offences Bill. This statement was subsequently circulated amongst a wider circle of civil society organisations and was released on International Human Rights Day.

You can read the joint advocacy statement in full here.

Training and Roundtable for South Sudanese Lawyers: Naivasha, 6- 11 November 2017

On 6 – 10 November 2017, LAW conducted a training on documentation of human rights violations through testimony and video for South Sudanese lawyers in Naivasha,  Kenya. The training was supported by Allen and Overy and co-hosted by Witness a global organisation focused on using witness testimony and video to document human rights violations.

On 11 November, LAW held a roundtable with the lawyers and activists who had attended its five day training on documenting human rights violations to discuss possible avenues for increasing access to justice for such violations in South Sudan. The roundtable was also attended by regional and international lawyers who provided participants with practical information and advice about the available options for engagement regionally and internationally. The roundtable resulted in the adoption of practical, creative ways forward for increasing access to legal redress for those who have suffered from human rights violations in South Sudan.

You can read more about these events here.

Panel Discussion on Somalia and the WPS Agenda, Geneva: 26 September 2017

Alongside the UK and Swedish Missions to the United Nations in Geneva, LAW organised a panel discussion on ‘Somalia and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda’ as a side event to the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council. Around 50 people, representing more than 15 countries, attended the event, which was held the at the Palais des Nations on 26 September.

Chaired by LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, the esteemed panel included:

  • Somali Ambassador to the UN,  Faduma Abdullahi Mohamed;
  • Swedish Ambassador to the UN, Veronika Bard;
  • UK Ambassador to the UN, Julian Braithwaite; and
  • Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Bahame Tom Nyanduga.

The panel discussed key issues around the challenges and opportunities for Somalia’s post-conflict state-building process to pursue the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS Agenda). Topics included the passage of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill, the participation of women in Somali governance and what more the international community can do to assist Somali in implementing the WPS agenda.

Somali Prime Minister talks about the Sexual Offences Bill, Geneva: 22 September 2017

During his speech before the General Assembly on 22 September 2017 the Prime Minister of Somalia, Hassan Ali Khayre, mentioned the Somali Sexual Offences Bill. 

He described the Bill as “soon-to-be approved” and noted that it will “provide the tools to fight impunity of sexual perpetrators.” Further, he observed that “[E]ven though we are fond of our tradition, it should never be a reason to condone impunity and my government is determined to find ways to harmonise our traditional dispute resolution and our conventional justice system in a manner that respects the human rights of its people.”

You can watch the speech in full, here.

LAW’s Antonia Mulvey acknowledged in new book, London: June 2017

LAW’s Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, has been mentioned in the acknowledgements of new book by Dexter Dias QC, The Ten Types of Human: A New Understanding of Who We Are and Who We Can Be (William Heinemann). The book combines social psychology, neuroscience and human rights research to explore the best and worst aspects of human behaviour. The book goes into depth on the topics such as child soldiers and female genital mutilation – the context in which Antonia and LAW, are mentioned.

Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies, Geneva: 21 June 2017

On 21 June, LAW attended Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies. This was held in the Palais des Nations, Geneva. Speakers included Veronika Bard, Ambassador to the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations in Geneva.

International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: 19 June 2017

Alongside the UK and Swedish Missions to the United Nations in Geneva, LAW organised a panel discussion on ‘Somalia and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda’ as a side event to the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council. Around 50 people, representing more than 15 countries, attended the event, which was held the at the Palais des Nations on 26 September.

Chaired by LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, the esteemed panel included:

  • Somali Ambassador to the UN,  Faduma Abdullahi Mohamed;
  • Swedish Ambassador to the UN, Veronika Bard;
  • UK Ambassador to the UN, Julian Braithwaite; and
  • Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Bahame Tom Nyanduga.

The panel discussed key issues around the challenges and opportunities for Somalia’s post-conflict state-building process to pursue the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS Agenda). Topics included the passage of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill, the participation of women in Somali governance and what more the international community can do to assist Somali in implementing the WPS agenda.

LAW joins two key networks: May 2017, Nairobi

LAW has been added to two key civil society networks.

Namati is a global movement of grassroots legal advocates, who give people the power to understand, use, and shape the law. Namati focusses on the challenges of protection of community land, the pursuit of environmental justice, securing citizenship rights and realising the right to health.

Prevent GBV Africa is a network of activists and organisations working to prevent violence against women, mainly in the Horn, East, and Southern Africa.

 

Legal Inequities for Women in the Middle East, 23 March 2017, LSE, London

On March 23rd, Antonia Mulvey, LAW’s Executive Director spoke at the LSE Kuwait Programme-LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security workshop on ‘Legal Inequities for Women in the Middle East.’ Antonia’s presentation, ‘Assessing the Role of Security Forces on Women in Conflict Zones: Perspectives from International Law’ explored how sexual exploitation and abuse of civilians by security forces may constitute rape as a war crime and/or crime against humanity.

 

International Women’s Day, 8 March 2017

8 March is International Women’s Day. To celebrate, LAW prepared profiles of some of the inspiring women that we work with. You can read  LAW’s profiles of Hanan Omar, Deqo Abdi Olad, Faiza Abdi Mohamed and Kelly Matheson in full on LAW’s Facebook page.