Research Project

Protection Measures for Survivors of Sexual Violence as an International Crime

Principal Investigator
Dr Clotilde Pegorier

This project is in partnership with TRIAL International.

International criminal tribunals have seen an increase in cases of sexual violence which, while undoubtedly a positive step in the fight against impunity, presents certain challenges regarding the protection of victims who come before these courts. This project will involve research into international and domestic standards from a variety of sources, with a view to identifying protection measures for survivors of sexual violence.

These measures will seek to safeguard the physical and psychological welfare of survivors during all stages of the judicial process. The resulting report will be used by TRIAL International in their domestic and international litigation to ensure that survivors are protected to the highest possible standard and to push jurisprudence forward.

Project pdf

The project

Sexual violence has been widely used as a weapon during situations of conflict or widespread and/or systematic human rights violations, especially against vulnerable parts of the civilian population. International tribunals, such as the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (ICTY and ICTR respectively) were responsible for important developments in the field of international criminal law prosecuting sexual violence crimes as international crimes. The inclusion in the Rome Statute of various form of sexual violence (rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization, forced prostitution and other forms of sexual violence) and the most recent jurisprudence of the International Criminal Court (ICC) gave a further push to the fight against impunity for those crimes. However, the increase in prosecution of sexual violence as an international crime posed new challenges to Courts, Tribunals and prosecuting authorities, in terms of how to ensure the safety and well-being of survivors of those crimes in the most problematic settings.

Project overview

The project will focus on identifying protection measures for survivors of sexual violence as an international crime derived from international legal standards and evidenced by cases at the international and domestic level; and other practices of select courts, tribunals and offices of the prosecutor. There is no existing comprehensive study on this topic. The project will culminate in a research paper on the topic, which would be helpful in order to have an overview of the existing framework and allow comparison among different systems in order to identify the most protective approach for survivors.

Hence, the focus of this research will be protection measures of survivors of sexual violence as an international crime (war crimes and crimes against humanity). Protection measures refer to any measure taken to ensure especially but not exclusively the physical and psychological welfare, safety and security of survivors taken at the pre-judicial, judicial and post-judicial phase of proceedings, including at the reparation stage. They include all the protective aspects of precautionary measures taken by Courts and Tribunals and the specific measures taken during investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor.

In particular, the research will focus on four aspects:

  1. The jurisprudence of international criminal tribunals relating to the issue of protection measures for sexual violence survivors in all phases of the proceedings (especially ICC, ICTY, ICTR, Special Court for Sierra Leone – final list to be established). The phases to be considered include: investigation, trial, measures taken after the end of proceedings (if applicable). The main topics to be examined include: forms of protection measures given; criteria used to issue them – e.g. specific type of crime, personal situation, age etc.; balance between protection measures and rights of the accused. A quality approach would be preferable, giving particular attention to the cases where the jurisprudence has been more protective regarding survivors. The same section should include an analysis of policy papers and guidelines developed by Courts and Tribunals (if applicable).
  2. The jurisprudence of selected national tribunals (common and civil law systems: list of countries to be established).
  3. The existing international standards on types of protection measures and criteria for issuing them (other than the ones developed by Courts and Tribunals).
  4. Relevant doctrine (on best practices, challenges etc.) The research method will include database research on case law; a desk review of policy papers and any secondary literature; and interviews with experts and practitioners who have relevant experience. The results of the research will be used as a basis for cases TRIAL International will litigate at the national and international level in order to ensure that the protection of sexual violence survivors meets the highest possible standards, and to push jurisprudence forward.
Dr Clotilde Pegorier
“There has never been a comprehensive study of how international criminal tribunals should protect victims who risk so much to bring perpetrators of sexual violence to justice. I am looking forward to being a part of changing this.”
Dr Clotilde Pegorier Lecturer, Essex Law School

Project output

At the end of the project a 30 page report will be presented to TRIAL International. The report will include the output of the research undertaken, structured in a thematic way (exact themes to be determined at a later stage as a part of the project) and on the basis of the source (international tribunals, national courts, international standards and guidelines, relevant doctrine and experts’ opinion). The report will end with conclusions and recommendations on possible avenues to push the jurisprudence forward. The annexes to the report, which are not included in the word count, will consist of a bibliography, a table of cases (jurisprudence at the national and international level), the questionnaire designed to interview the experts, the notes and/or recordings of the different interviews.

TRIAL International will use those as a basis for protection measures requested on behalf of sexual violence survivors both at the national and international levels.

Project outline

Phase 1: November to December (5 weeks)

  • Preliminary research, understanding the project, developing an outline, list of cases, bibliography and literature review. The outline, bibliography and a 6-8 page literature review will be submitted for review by Trial by the last day of the autumn term, and comments will be received in response by the first day of the spring term.
  • Identifying a list of experts and practitioners on the topic
  • Developing a questionnaire for the experts and practitioners
  • Draft and submit ethical approval application to the University of Essex before the end of term
  • Draft a communications strategy to cover internal communications within the team, and, in agreement with TRIAL, external communications with the partner and other actors

Phase 2: January - March (10 weeks)

  • Continue with review of jurisprudence, guidelines and literature
  • Develop the bibliography
  • Conducting the interviews of experts and practitioners
  • Draft the report, and submit it for review by TRIAL before the end of term
  • Development of the annexes

Phase 3: April - June (10 weeks)

  • Revision of the report

Project Supervisor

Trial International

TRIAL International is a non-governmental organization fighting impunity for international crimes and supporting victims in their quest for justice. TRIAL International takes an innovative approach to the law, paving the way to justice for survivors of unspeakable sufferings. The organization provides legal assistance, litigates cases, develops local capacity and pushes the human rights agenda forward.

TRIAL International