On 12-13 September 2016, the Nuremberg Academy brought together representatives of judicial mechanisms and civil society organizations at the national and international level, to discuss the modalities of cooperation during prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence. The two-day workshop addressed the merits, challenges and limitations of cooperation between these stakeholders.
Ineffective cooperation or the total lack thereof between courts and civil society organizations is a major underlying problem during prosecution of wartime/ conflict-related sexual violence. As such, the workshop underscored the role and potential contribution of local and international civil society organizations to criminal trials. Participants explored the strengths and limitations of cooperation and how it could be strengthened. For instance, in addition to participating in judicial processes themselves, CSOs may identify witnesses/victims and address difficult issues relating to stigma, local customs and practices in order to encourage participation in trials. Simultaneously, all stakeholders must understand the inherent limitations of cooperation and anticipate the challenges involved in such processes. These include ethical and practical considerations - not all organizations would be willing to disclose their sources of information, security risks and unfavourable regulatory frameworks. In addition, several CSOs are not trained criminal investigators, and even if they do receive such training, it may vary from scenarios envisaged by criminal prosecutors.
In all, the workshop provided a forum for reflection on best practices of cooperation between CSOs and judicial mechanisms during, and in the aftermath of conflict. Participants shared success stories and representatives of local and international judicial mechanisms highlighted existing pathways, policies and anticipated forms of cooperation with CSOs.
Following the workshop, the Nuremberg Academy will publish best practices guidelines on cooperation between CSOs and judicial mechanisms which will be widely disseminated amongst stakeholders in conflict, post-conflict situations, and justice players at the international level. In addition to laying out best practices of cooperation, the guidelines will also highlight policy gaps, existing challenges and recommendations.