Strengthening the Response of the Administration of Justice for Victimsof Gender-based Violence
25-26 July 2011
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the Caribbean Ombudsman Association in collaboration with the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police convened a meeting on 25-26 July, 2011 on “Strengthening the Response of the Administration of Justice for Victims of Gender-based Violence”
The objectives of this meeting were:
- To strengthen partnerships of agencies related to the administration of justice and victim support services; and
- To develop response protocols linking victim services, the police and offices of the Ombudsman.
Participants recognised that while the region had witnessed achievements in legal reform addressing gender-based violence, challenges remain for the effective implementation of laws, for ensuring access to justice on the part of victims of sexual assaults and for meeting the appropriate standards of due diligence in protecting and preventing such violence.
The meeting acknowledged that the rule of law was undermined by under-reporting as well as by high levels of attrition in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases. Because of the sensitive nature of sexual violence and relationship violence, many victims/survivors do not report the crimes. A victim/survivor’s reluctance to report persists partly due to the myths that erroneously place blame and responsibility for the crime on the victim/survivor rather than the perpetrator. Victim/survivors also may fail to report because of perceptions that police may be less than responsive in the timely, and consistently professional treatment and investigations of complaints.
The representatives of the participating institutions, namely, offices of the Ombudsman, victim support organisations and police services agreed to collaborate at the national level work to ensure that victims of sexual assault have equitable access to justice and that policy makers ensure the implementation of policy and legislation that are responsive to the needs of victims while paying attention to the due process rights of accused perpetrators.
The participants shared the common vision that through respectful and effective cooperation/collaboration their institutions would seek to:
- Ensure the equitable access to justice;
- Demonstrate care, concern and courtesy for victims
- Reduce the trauma of victims of sexual offences and
- Eliminate all forms of gender based violence.
This Protocol of Partnership reflects the consensus of participants to strengthen functional cooperation. Specifically, through this Protocol of Partnership, the following is proposed:
- to strengthen the functional cooperation between the Offices of the ombudsman, victim support services and the police in responding to reports of gender-based violence
- to promote access by victims to existing programs and services for victims;
- to address complaints of victims and victims services with regard to public administration; and
- to promote awareness of the needs and concerns of victims and the applicable laws that benefit victims of crime, including to promote the principles set out in the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power
- The participants recommended that the partnership at national level should be informed by the following principles:
- Professionalism and clarity of institutional roles
- Technical competence
- Effective communication, networking and responsiveness
In realising the vision of the cooperation, the following principles are intended to promote fair and equitable treatment of victims:
- Victims of crime should be treated with courtesy, compassion, and respect.
- The privacy of victims should be considered and respected to the greatest extent possible.
- The safety and security of victims should be considered at all stages of the criminal justice process and appropriate measures should be taken when necessary to protect victims from intimidation and retaliation.
- Information should be provided to victims about the criminal justice system.
- Victims should be given information, in accordance with prevailing law, policies, and procedures, about the status of the investigation; the scheduling, progress and final outcome of the proceedings.
- Information should be provided to victims about available victim assistance services, other programs and assistance available to them
- The views, concerns and representations of victims are an important consideration in criminal justice processes and should be considered in accordance with prevailing law, policies and procedures.
- The needs, concerns and diversity of victims should be considered in the development and delivery of programs and services, and in related education and training.
- Information should be provided to victims about available options to raise their concerns when they believe that these principles have not been followed.
It was agreed that each of the collaborating institutions at national level have complementary roles in strengthening the administration of justice for protecting, preventing and punishing gender-based violence as follows:
a) Role of the Police:
- To be impartial and thorough investigators
- Establish whether a crime has been committed and gather, evaluate and process any evidence that may exist
- Identify, apprehend and prosecute the offender/s
- Conduct the investigation in a supportive and non-judgmental manner.
- Undertake public education and awareness including safety tips on how to deal with GBV and the supports available
- Utilise a multi-agency approach in responding to reports of gender-based violence
- Support and protect victims
Police sensitivity to victims will:
Police services may, in meeting these roles, consider:
- The establishment of specialist units for investigation of sexual assaults
- The assignment of specially trained investigators and prosecutors
b) The Role of the Office of the Ombudsman:
- Receive and review complaints about the actions and/or omissions of government departments, agencies, employees, laws or policies;
- Refer victims and victim support services to programs and services as appropriate;
- Answer questions about the rights of victims;
- Provide information about the services and programs available through the government;
- Make recommendations to the government and in particular the administration of justice on how to change its policies or laws to better suit the needs and concerns of victims, and to report on those recommendations publicly.
- Regularly and actively monitor the developments of particular cases under investigation
- Be available to listen with patience to complainants especially with regard to sexual offence and gender-based violence matters
c) Victim support organisations:
- Provide crucial crisis and long term specialized counselling, support and independent advocacy for those who have experienced any form of sexual violence
- Implement ongoing awareness drives that highlight the prevalence of sexual violence and on the importance and need for appropriate, high-quality and specialised support.
- Work with other organisations, agencies and government departments to improve the response to those who are affected by and who perpetrate sexual violence.
- Disseminate information on laws and procedures
- Undertake data collection and analysis
- Provide information on services
- Refer victims for follow up assistance- medical, police, social
- Follow up and monitor victims as they go through the justice sector
- Training for service providers
- Policy oversight
Drawing on their specific roles and functions, the participants recommended that offices of the Ombudsman, victim support organisations ad police services should actively collaborate in the following areas:
- Responding to individual complaints
- Periodic review of systems, laws, policies and practices
- Advocacy for policy reform and prevention
- Public awareness for building a culture of zero tolerance for gender-based violence
- Capacity development/training
- Social services support
- Data collection
The ways in which the active collaboration can be effected at national level could include:
- Preparation of a Memorandum of Understanding to detail the modes of collaboration
- Creation of an inter-agency protocol of responses to victims of sexual assault
- Establishment of a standing Inter-Agency Working Group to review periodically the functioning of the Protocol for Partnership and to assess policies and practices and to make recommendations for improvements where appropriate
- Establishment of integrated first response services across disciplines
- Establishment of channels of communication for the reporting, monitoring and responding to individual complaints
- Consideration of sharing of common services to maximise resources
- Development and implementation of continuous training for collaborating institutions in areas of common need and in particular for first responders
- Undertaking and dissemination of joint studies on the administration of justice response to sexual assaults
- Joint advocacy and public awareness community-based outreach
- Compilation of data on reports and monitoring of responses
- Support services, including counselling, for service providers and their families where needed.
The participants reflected on the need for increased resources, human, technical and financial, to achieve the greater levels of partnership for the promotion of a more effective administration of justice, a culture of human rights and zero tolerance to gender=based violence. They called upon governments, inter-governmental organisations and development partners to consider supporting for the implementation of this Protocol of Partnership.