On Women’s Day, we co-organised a panel discussion in The Hague, inviting three speakers to reflect on the need of an international reparations mechanism for victims of conflict-related sexual violence. The issues which were raised centred around the lack of recognition and justice for victims of sexual violence, both nationally and internationally.

Niamh Hayes, expert on justice for conflict-related sexual violence crimes, provided a comprehensive insight into the difficulties that victims of wartime sexual violence face to obtain justice. She highlighted that the criminal justice system is often not accessible for victims of sexual violence, even though they are the group of victims most in need of reparations. Hayes highlighted that challenges include psychological and physical trauma, social stigma, rejection by family members, need for medical care and, in some cases, children born out of rape.

Need for long-term reparations programs

Pieter de Baan, Executive Director of the ICC Trust Fund for Victims, stated that there is a pressing need for reparations programs to last longer, rather than being awarded as a one-time compensation. Reparations programs need to have a transformational effect, rather than an incidental effect for victims in order to enable them to rebuild their lives, de Baan explained. He added that collective reparations such as building a school or a memorial could often be more beneficial for victims than financial compensation.

Esther Dingemans, Director of the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation, emphasised the urgent need to create a mechanism which could award reparations to victims independent from the formal justice system. Victims of conflict-related sexual violence are still suffering, both in silence and in the open, with little possibilities of receiving reparations for themselves and the children born out of rape.

Dingemans explained our initiative to bring experts and government representatives together to develop an international reparations commission, able to provide assistance and recognition to survivors of sexual violence independent from a conviction in a criminal trial.

New approach to reparations for sexual violence

The event, organised in collaboration with the Grotius Center, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court and the Asser Instituut, gave rise to further discussions about a new approach to reparations for victims of conflict-related sexual violence. There was a clear consensus on the need for action.

The Mukwege Foundation continues to develop global partnerships to create a new mechanism of reparations for victims of wartime sexual violence.

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