February 8, 2024
Launch of the Legal Guidebook on States Obligations for CRSV
After two years of research, writing and expert consultations, the Mukwege Foundation launched the Guidebook on State Obligations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in June 2023. This online resource provides an accessible and easy-to-use tool for survivors, state representatives, and civil society organisations, setting out states’ legal obligations on sexual violence in conflict under international law. To make sure the Guidebook reaches its intended audience, we organised two launch events: the first in Geneva, as a side event to the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council, and the second in New York – prior to the United Nations Security Council‘s annual open debate on conflict-related sexual violence. Both events were held around the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
During these launch events, the Guidebook was welcomed with great enthusiasm by key actors involved in the fight against conflict-related sexual violence. Grace Acan, SEMA Member and co-founder of the Women Advocacy Network Uganda, highlighted that “the Guidebook is a useful tool for survivors to remind their governments to act, repair, addressing, and ending sexual violence. The Guidebook can help governments to understand that wartime sexual violence is not a domestic issue, it threatens international security too and failure to prevent or respond to the violence means a violation of international law.”
Another survivor activist, Nadine Tunasi, underlined that, “It is important to understand that the first responder for addressing the issue of sexual violence is the state, not survivors. Many survivors have suffered tremendous trauma because they simply did not know what their rights were. When we have tools that inform survivors about their rights and state obligations, we are actually helping survivors to participate in the conversation, also to seek justice or reparation.”
Erin Farrell Rosenberg, Senior Legal Advisor at the Mukwege Foundation who leads this project, explained that her research and consultation with other experts pointed to the problem of lack of awareness rather than the absence of law. Therefore, the Guidebook provides a practical overview of existing state obligations regarding conflict-related sexual violence under the International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law, and the United Nations Security Council resolutions under its peace and security authority under the United Nations (UN) Charter.
The Guidebook was recognised to be mutually reinforcing to the UN Framework for the Prevention of CRSV. Chloe Marnay-Baszanger of the Office of the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General for Sexual Violence in Conflict acknowledged that, “The Guidebook initiative is in full synergy with the work of the United Nations’ mandate on conflict-related sexual violence. It should provoke us into thinking critically about the international commitments that states have agreed to regarding conflict related sexual violence and how we implement them.”
TheGuidebook was endorsed by the British Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Preventing Sexual Violence, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon. He presented the book before all Security Council members who attended the United Nations Open Debate on conflict-related sexual violence in New York. He stated, “I encourage all states, civil society groups, activists to make the most of this excellent handbook. This Legal Guidebook comprehensively sets out the international law regarding conflict-related sexual violence and will help increase states’ understandingof their obligations. Most importantly, the Guidebook will enable survivors to hold us all to account, ensuring that they remain at the heart of this work.”
While the two launch events marked the end of the development phase of the Guidebook, the project is far from completed. In the upcoming months, the Mukwege Foundation will work to make the Guidebook more user-friendly and accessible in other languages. Both the development and the launch events of the Guidebook were made possible with funding from the Dutch Postcode Lottery and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
You can access the Guidebook via bit.ly/crsv-guidebook or download the PDF below.