SRSG Pramila Patten, Video Remarks International Congress on “The Principle of Credibility as a Tool against Impunity for Sexual Violence” December 9-10, 2021, Guatemala City – World

It is a great honor to participate in this important event, bringing together such an impressive audience of peacemakers, activists and human rights defenders committed to the fight against impunity for sexual violence.

As Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, I have witnessed first-hand how, despite significant progress over the past decades, survivors of sexual violence continue to bear the shame and shame. the stigma associated with this crime, their credibility being questioned very often throughout reports and legal processes, as well as within families and communities.

Gender inequality and discrimination, weak rule of law institutions and inadequate legal systems that perpetuate gender stereotypes remain major challenges for access to justice and accountability of survivors of violence. sexual. Those who overcome family and societal pressure and decide to come forward face stigma and discrimination from the very institutions that should protect them.

I have seen in many contexts how their accounts are disputed and ignored by lack of gender-sensitive law enforcement officials during questioning, evidence-gathering and other investigation-related procedures. I have also seen how, in violation of international standards in court proceedings, victims continue to face damaging and intrusive attacks on their sexuality, with courts admitting evidence of their prior sexual behavior, demanding corroboration of testimonies. or inferring consent despite a coercive environment. And indeed, survivors also face great challenges related to discriminatory laws and practices, for example, legal provisions that link rape to adultery, exempt perpetrators from prosecution if they marry the victim, or fail to recognize that men and boys can also be victims of this horrible crime.

Despite all of these challenges, accountability efforts can be successful and should therefore be continued. In 2019, the Security Council in resolution 2467 called on all member states to fight impunity for conflict-related sexual violence with survivors in mind, also addressing the root causes of these crimes.

An extraordinary example of successful survivor-focused prosecutions is the Sepur Zarco case, where innovative strategic litigation strategies have been put in place with the tireless support of civil society organizations. These included the adoption of measures to prevent further trauma and other harm to victims during trials, including through pre-recorded testimony, in accordance with Guatemalan law and with respect for the rights of the accused; and the intensive use of the testimony of national and international experts who have helped the Court understand the testimonies of the victims and have helped to change the narrative in terms of blaming victims and helping to heal the stigma. Another critical aspect was the survivors’ demand for transformative reparations, on the basis of the concept of “dignified reparations” enshrined in the Guatemalan procedural code, and subsequently ordered by the court of first instance. I would like to extend a very warm greeting to the survivors of Sepur Zarco who are with us today. Your courage and resilience are an inspiration to all of us and a true reflection of what a survivor-centered approach should be.

Promoting a survivor-centered approach to preventing and responding to sexual violence has been a priority of my tenure since taking office. This approach aims to amplify frontline perspectives, viewing survivors not as passive beneficiaries, but as co-creators of solutions.

Let me mention two recent initiatives launched by my Office recently, which I hope will be useful in informing your deliberations. The first is the launch of a Digital book, which provides a platform for survivors of sexual violence around the world to bear witness to the multiple challenges they have faced, and makes recommendations on how our efforts can and should be guided by their experiences and perspectives. The second tool is the Model legislative provisions and guidance on the investigation and prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence, aimed at helping national legislators to enact comprehensive laws that cover all forms of sexual violence offenses, in accordance with international standards and due process. I hope that this tool will allow a greater capacity for action and empowerment of the victims who are served by these justice processes.

It is time to put the blame on the survivors on the perpetrators and send a clear message that the world will no longer tolerate the use of sexual violence.

I wish you a very fruitful meeting and assure you of my full support, as well as that of my Office, in giving visibility to your efforts.


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