Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations

Farewell to the Coalition

by Juli Drolet

I held the position of Assistant Coordinator, Womens Rights from September 2000 to 22 June 2001. In that capacity, I coordinated the activities of the NGO Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations, and thus added an international component to my experience as a Crown prosecutor here in Montreal for eight years. In the latter position, my practice focused on criminal prosecution involving women and children victims of physical and sexual abuse and violence.

The Coalition was very active during this period. I saw how difficult it often is to monitor and intervene appropriately in trials that are taking place overseas. Gaining access to the information necessary to properly evaluate indictments and testimony is a long and difficult process. Third partiesthose without a direct interest in the proceedingare at a disadvantage, and it becomes impossible to fully endow the proceedings with their intended public dimension. Fortunately, the Coalition members have built ties with certain intervenors before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, with a view to publicizing the Coalition, its objectives and its positions on specific cases, as well as to facilitate access to the documents and information necessary to intervene in favour of womens rights.

Two amici curiae have been filed so far before the ICTR, in the Akayesu and Cyangugu cases, respectively. On the Coalitions mission in April 2001, our delegation met with the office of the ICTR Prosecutor to explain the position we argue in our brief. We did obtain a response from the Court, albeit a negative one. For its part, the prosecution agreed to file new charges of sexual violence. Our intervention will remain that of a third party, and in that sense we cannot expect the proceedings to unfold exactly as we might wish. However, we can denounce certain situations, and intervene as appropriate when we are granted the right and power to do so.

To summarize, it is my view that the Coalition should continue to monitor cases having an impact on womens rights. We must denounce flaws occurring at every stage of a proceeding, from investigation to decision, and denounce them publicly whenever possible.

Certainly, advances have been made in recognizing women’s rights. The legal framework is increasingly responsive to the experiences of women and girls in conflict, especially in cases of sexual violence, as we have seen in the important work being carried out by the international criminal tribunals. But there remains much to be done, particularly to improve prevention and to combat impunity.

-- Kofi Annan
October 28, 2002