The New Times (Kigali)

26 November 2012

Rwanda: Chief Justice Decries Cases of Sexual Violence

Chief Sam Rugege has decried high levels of sexual abuses around the world.

Addressing an international conference on prosecuting sexual violence crimes in Kigali yesterday, Prof. Rugege expressed the need to have appropriate ways of curbing sexually related crimes.

"In Rwanda, we still have the problem of many cases of women and girls that are sexually abused and raped but we have put in place measures to deal with the problem, including the law against child abuse and the new penal code that provides for tough sentences for crimes of sexual violence," said the Chief Justice.

Rugege added that statistically, Rwanda's situation is not very alarming although the figures are still high.

"The high figures of sexual violence crimes are not unique to Rwanda, it's a problem of the world, and neighbouring countries are facing the same problem," he said.

He said that the biggest problem is victims of sexual violence may not easily come out to testify against such crimes.

"We live in a community where people don't openly talk about such issues which become hard for investigators and prosecutors to gather information from the victims but also there is still a problem, where lawyers and investigators may not know of the appropriate skills interrogating the victims."

He proposed that the most appropriate ways of managing such cases is to continuously train investigators, prosecutors and lawyers on how best to handle victims without causing more trauma.

The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Hassan Bubacar Jallow, also expressed concerns of the state of sexual violence around the world, saying it has become a global concern.

"Analysing the state of sexual violence worldwide, I would conclude that it is in a terrible state. In most of the conflict situations we face today in the world, whether it is DRC or Sudan, sexual violence has become very prevalent and we need to find a way of dealing with this problem as a global community with what is really a biggest challenge to human rights," he said.

According to Jallow, sexual violence is the biggest challenge the world is facing when it come to situations of conflict areas.

"We need to find ways of not only to prevent but where we fail to prevent at least we hold people responsible to account," said Jallow.

During the workshop, the ICTR's Office of Prosecutor presented its two manuals that were prepared on the investigation and prosecution of sexual violence.

The first manual is investigation and prosecution, while the second one deals with the management, "..basically how you treat the victim and the witnesses because those are crucial cases, the victims may be suffering from trauma or other conditions how you treat them is important," said Jallow.

"The manuals were prepared in the context of the tribunal's best practices because we feel that as the ICTR is about to close, it has acquired a lot of experience in some of the areas of these operations including some of the success and challenges that we have faced.

"It is important that we share with national and international prosecutors, some of these lessons can be drawn from the work that we have done so far," said Jallow.

Most of the cases that we have prosecuted at the ICTR have included charges of sexual violence, some of them the Prosecutor succeeded on securing conviction, while others he were not successful.

The conference has attracted participants from ICTR, the International Criminal Court, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda.

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