Liesl Gernholtz, Human Rights Watch

I’m good afternoon everybody my name is Lisa Gonzales and i’m the director of the woman’s rights division at Human Rights Watch in starting my presentation I want to talk a little bit about what Human Rights Watch does because although we are motivated by many of the same reasons that Christian has spoken about in his presentation we have quite a different methodology and the reason we collect our information in the way that we do is obviously we collect this information where the purpose of trying to advocate for change so we collect data for the purposes of taking it in our case because that’s our strategy is taking it to policymakers with the hope either of stopping the violence or ensuring that there’s no impunity for these crimes and that resources and services are ultimately directed to victims of sexual violence so Human Rights Watch is a global institution its primary methodology is the documentation of human rights violations across a range of geographical and thematic issues so we have divisions that concentrate on regions such as an Africa division and Asia division and we have the matok division such as the women’s rights division or Health and Human Rights that concentrates on these thematic issues in different regions and countries we have a long history of working both in conflict and post-conflict situations and they are methodology although it is somewhat expedited is the same essentially we send researchers aren’t into the field and they collect evidence of human rights violations from the victims themselves from my point of view when people ask me what we do I think the thing that we do the most important thing we do is we try to give a voice to the victims of human rights violations because particularly in conflict these are people who very often don’t have the ability to speak for themselves they don’t have access to policymakers and they live in very precarious vulnerable situations which means that their ability to speak out about their violations Christian has referred for example to fear of retribution the fact that people who speak out about what has happened to may be at risk further human rights violations these are all reasons why they are not able to be in the forefront of advocating for for themselves so typically we document sexual violence in two broad context the one is in real time and this is where we go out into conflict situations and we attempt to create a record of what is happening at the time and we do this primarily to bring this information to policymakers with the hope ideally of stopping violence but we also do that to ensure that there is a record of this violence for later purposes and that brings me to the second conflict in which we would document sexual violence and that is really to that this is in the aftermath so if you look at where we’ve documented sexual violence in conflict most recently in Libya we had researchers in the ground who were looking at the reports of sexual violence as the conflict happened that information was then given to some of the high-level actors such as the UK the US in France they used that information to firstly put better services in place for victims of sexual violence during the conflict and now they’re using that information to pressurize the ICC and the other accountability mechanisms within Libya to hold perpetrators accountable and that’s the second sort of context in which we would document conflict-related sexual violence and that is firstly for accountability purposes so we have documented sexual violence most recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo sadly that has been a decade-long project of Human Rights Watch which has been to document sexual violence in that conflict in the Katawa in Afghanistan and as I said in Libya in the last year those are the places where we have specifically devoted resources to documenting conflict-related sexual violence and in those situations we hope that we create evidence that will be useful for accountability mechanisms both national and international we advocate for resources for survivors of sexual violence and we also increasingly are using that information to focus on what is going to prevent sexual violence as Christian had for example has spoken about the early warning systems we’ve been doing a lot of work in the DRC to better to strengthen the very fragile earning early warning systems that already exist in that country so we use that information at a number of different

levels sexual violence is probably one of the most difficult areas for us to document and I want to speak a little bit about my own experience in Libya because I think it illustrates the complexities of trying to go out and document this the this particular type of violation and I I don’t they I mean I think Libya and the Middle East presents specific challenges but I don’t think that they unique I mean we’ve seen this in all the places that we’ve worked in varying degrees so as many of you will recall probably round about april of last year now bear in mind that the the revolution began in benghazi in February so round about april last year there was an increase in media reporting around the use of sexual violence as a tactic in the libyan revolution there was one particular case that became a very high-profile case of a young woman called a minor a lady who was in tripoli and who managed to escape from detention from the Gaddafi regime and burst into a hotel the Rixos hotel which was quite a well-known hotel where all the journalists and international people were staying and she really opened up this discussion about whether or not sexual violence was happening following the reporting on that there was fairly large numbers of reports that sexual violence was happening in Misrata a little bit in Benghazi and then in the western mountain regions we already had people on the ground in Benghazi and we were able to deploy people both the western mountain regions and also to the tunisian Libyan border because there had been an influx of refugees at that point so we had people across sort of those areas and they were still a conflict that was happening we were at that stage unable to get people into misurata because it was a decision was being heavily shelled and we just simply didn’t have access to that population at that stage and what we initially found in libya was that it was exceedingly difficult to document sexual violence a couple of reasons one sexual violence is highly stigmatized in Libya as it is in many places in the world a complicating factor in the Middle East is that sexual violence is often conceptualized as a crime of honor and in Libya the honor is not just the honor of the woman but of course it’s the honor of the family so sexual violence not only infringes on the honor of the young woman or the or the girl who has been attacked but also it comes back to the family so we ran into many many people who told us that they knew your sexual violence but told us of the destruction of evidence many of you will have heard about the rape videos we were able to to take some of those into our position but we also have very credible evidence that large numbers of those videos were destroyed at the on the orders of at that stage the rebels now obviously not the rebels in Libya so one was that in trying to protect women and girls evidence of sexual violence was destroyed a second strand and another barrier to getting good information on sexual violence was that women and girls themselves were strongly discouraged to talk about the experiences to report the experiences and to see can’t services so typically in some of the places we work they are pre-existing services like health services counseling services groups that work with women and we’re able to use those as interlocutors to begin to reach victims in Libya women and girls were strongly discouraged by families by communities and also by the rebels from accessing what services were available cause of concerns about shame and a van stigma so it was very hard in the beginning to corroborate these evidence so we had a huge on the one hand we had huge numbers of media reports saying that it was systemic that thousands of women and girls had been reported that this was a policy and a tactic of the Gaddafi regime and on the other hand we had expert talented researchers in the field who found it very difficult to corroborate these instances and and I think this shows the need for the kind of research that you’re doing that really is looking very systematically at what is what is happening in the field but after the end of the conflict and a little bit before the end of the conflict we started making contact with groups mainly individuals i have to say who were supporting and providing services to initially woman in connection with sexual violence so very slowly because we had been on the ground throughout the conflict because we had spoken out across a range of issues

around the use of weapons for example that had been for that shouldn’t have been used like land mines and cluster munitions we had spoken about it the use of torture by Gaddafi regimes we’ve spoken about the extrajudicial executions that were going on we had a certain profile in Libya at that point and that was very helpful to us in beginning to gain the trust of the groups that were working with women in connection with sexual violence so probably from about July and August we started getting cases and we were able to document how sexual violence was happening something that was very interesting to us and something I think that certainly I didn’t expect when I was doing the research was that we began to see a relatively large number of victims who were men and I think you know this is one of the interesting things and I think a challenge for us going forward is that I think while we begin to build up a picture of what is happening to women and girls in the context of conflict and conflict related sexual violence there’s much much much less information about how men are targeted and for me having done this work for a very long time my experience in there was really the first time that we had interviewed men and and fairly large numbers of men i would say that a third of the victims that we’ve interviewed to date are men so for me it was very interesting to begin to try to understand how sexual violence is also used against men and some of the differences that i’ll point out between the two groups which I think also tells us about the kind of advocacy and the kinds of policies that we’re going to need in the future with regard to the woman much of the rape appears to have been opportunistic this doesn’t discount whether or not that it may well have been a policy of the Gaddafi regime and Human Rights Watch currently doesn’t have sufficient evidence to say definitively one way or another whether it was whether it was or it wasn’t doesn’t detract from the way in which had happened and this was largely opportunistic so women who are at home alone when the troops entered cities villages were targeted woman who were in some way seen as associated with the opposition were also targeted but we have much less evidence that this was systematic and we also it appears that certain units were much more involved in sexual violence so we have some evidence that there were particular units and these were controlled by by particular elements of the Gaddafi regime and they seemed to have been much more engaged in sexual violence than than other units the picture is very different with regard to the male survivors of sexual violence there it is very clear from the cases that we have that men who are involved in opposition activities were targeted and this cuts across a whole range of activities so we have instances where men who were previously soldiers and who had defected were later picked up we have instances of people who were just demonstrators who are on the ground who were democracy activists who were graffitiing walls were putting up flags they were targeted and we also have and this particularly interesting aspect for me we have people who had been previously targeted so for example we have a couple of cases of men who are in prison several years before for opposition activities who were picked up very early in the conflict so februari March last year were warned to say that you know if you if we find out that you’ve been engaging in any other activities you know we’re watching you and who were then subsequently picked up as the conflict heightened so with regard to men clearly a targeted group of men sexual violence was part of a broader pattern of torture used against these men and sexual violence was clearly punitive it was seen very much as something that was ultimately so humiliating and so shameful to them that it would be the ultimate punishment so we have evidence that for example suggests or that shows that men were told in the you know they were being tortured they were being beaten but they were told you know you’re going to be raped you are so terrible you have betrayed your country you have betrayed gaddafi that this is the only punishment that is suitable for you so you know there is a much clearer pattern that has emerged in the interview of male victims around how sexual violence is being used punitive Lee so what we would do and what we have done with that information is that information has been made available to the ICC they continue their investigations unfortunately they haven’t deployed a specialist sexual violence investigator to Libya so they

are going to be very reliant on groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty to provide them with evidence the information was also provided to the Commission of Inquiry the Human Rights councils inquiry into human rights abuses in libya during the conflict and we have also begun to work very tentatively with the accountability mechanisms that exist in libya those of you who follow this kind of thing will know that there’s a raging debate going on about where the high-level high-value targets such as sunni see the minister of the senior intelligence officer in Gaddafi who was just picked up in mauritania a couple of days ago and saif al-islam gaddafi whether they should be tried in Libya which is what the Libyan government is saying or whether they should be transferred to the Hague and tribe to the International Criminal Court it is very clear that Libya intends to try them at home and we are beginning slowly to work with the existing institutions in Libya to help them build up evidence for these trials we also have provided that information to the Special Representative on sexual violence in conflict she herself has begun an investigation into sexual violence of Libyan we’ve provided our evidence to her which we hope will strengthen her report so we use the information that we get in many different ways to at this point in Libya obviously to counteract impunity we advocate strongly that perpetrators be identified and that they’re held accountable for the actions obviously after due process and we obviously also advocate that they are appropriate protections even for perpetrators in the systems of accountability so we have as as you can see from my description of what we do and how we do it a very different methodology I mean we really collect this information with the purpose of exposing abuses and then using it to advocate for change I want to talk a little bit before I end about some of the challenges of investigating sexual violence in conflict it is a very complex undertaking to interview people and I say people because my own experience in Libya meant you know when I did when I was on the ground I only interviewed men these are people who have been deeply traumatized and they come from a conflict of huge trauma anyway so very often women and men who have been raped or sexually assaulted have also lived through conflict so they may have lost members of their family in the conflict they are very very likely to have been displaced they have probably lost their homes and very often they may be separated from their children from the family members from their community so these are profoundly traumatized individuals anyway many of them come from communities and countries where rape and sexual violence is considered an extremely shameful occurrence it’s something that in some way they feel themselves to have been responsible for so in interviewing them you have to try to cut through some of these issues in order to find out what has happened to them so we train our researchers and I investigators very thoroughly around conflict they are well trained in interviewing traumatized individuals and our ethos or our guiding principle is that we really are on the side of caution so if we don’t feel that a particular victim should be talking to us because they’re traumatized if we feel that we are rito material or causing secondary traumatization we encourage researchers not to continue with those interviews and my message to my researchers are if you feel that it’s not helpful even if the victim says they want to continue be extremely careful about whether you continue to talk to that person where possible we try our best to link up survivors to existing resources and in some places like the DRC it’s easier to do than in other places like Libya where there were very few resources that were available during the conflict and even now there are very few resources that are available to to sexual violence survivors the vast majority of people that we’ve helped we’ve had to link up with resources out of the country so we have helped people go to Egypt Tunisia and to Germany for treatment in the aftermath of of the conflict but it is a extremely complex undertaking to interview people about sexual violence and we do often see a lot of stuff on the ground that we are uncomfortable with that there isn’t sufficient care being taken to protect people from secondary traumatization the other challenge is also the question of what is more important there has been a

lot of focus on and I think that it is very important that we continue that focus but in my experience the vast majority of people that I speak to particularly in the immediate aftermath of sexual assault and sexual violence they seek heart services that will help them heal many have been raped multiple times I think a feature of the DRC conflict has been that you very very frequently have multiple perpetrators so that gives rise to an increase in injury and increase in serious injury and an increase in the exposure to things like HIV and other sexually transmitted infections so very often what women and girls want is they want access to health care they want access to counseling services and they want access to the kinds of interventions that are going to help them heal physically and psychologically the other thing that they want is they want to be put back in the position that they were before the rep so they want to go home they want to be able to put their children back in school they want to be able to rebuild their communities and I think we have begun to put some more emphasis on reparations and the transformative nature of repin it reparations and that we advocate for a system of reparations that will recognize that one of the underlying factors that contributes to sexual violence in conflict is the inequality of women in society before the conflict so we have begun to look very carefully at the kinds of reparations that will begin to address gender inequality in those societies and communities and that will also assist women in rebuilding their lives so we have began to see interesting things happening like schools women’s access to resources land their ability to receive training so things that will really address the distractions that have happened in their lives during the conflict including the sexual violence but that will also help to rebuild a society that is more equal in nature because I think that in self is prevention and then my final point that I want to make is as you can see a lot of our work is focused on accountability and impunity and in advocating for services as somebody who has worked on violence against women not just sexual violence for a long time my background is from South Africa some of you who know my country will know that we have the dubious distinction of having some of the highest levels of violence against women in the world and I think where we have not put as much attention and I think that where the research there prio is doing is incredibly important is understanding what is going to prevent violence against women not just in the context of conflict but in society as a whole and I’m increasingly interested in using the resources of Human Rights Watch to advocate for better protection systems I don’t think we know enough about what is preventive but I think increasingly we are finding good research we are finding programs on the ground that are trying to address prevention and I think there’s an increasing global discourse about the need to figure out what is going to stop the violence before it starts so thank you very much everybody for your time and I look forward to to your questions