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Addressing Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones

Every year, sexual violence is used against tens of thousands of women and girls during and after armed conflict. And all too often, those who commit the violence will never be accused, they will never be arrested, and they will never stand trial or even face a fine.

The crisis is acute in many East and Central African countries, including those where the International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently investigating mass atrocities—Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda.

Permitting perpetrators of sexual violence to escape punishment denies survivors justice and reparations and weakens the fabric of a society. Impunity for sexual violence can be ended, if the local health and legal communities work together to build successful prosecutions of crimes.

But health professionals, who are vital first responders to rape survivors, often receive little training in the forensic collection and documentation of evidence. And law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges require medical and scientific support to assess sexual violence and effectively interact with health workers and survivors.

In response, PHR has launched The Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones. Across the five countries facing ICC investigations, this multi-year program will train health and legal experts on the best practices for collecting court-admissible evidence and will forge effective coalitions among regional medical, law enforcement, and legal experts.

In addition to strengthening the capacity of these professionals to respond to sexual violence, PHR’s program will increase communication and general cooperation among the medical, law enforcement, and legal communities.

The program draws on PHR’s extensive expertise in documenting war crimes and providing forensic training to professionals in conflict areas around the world.

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