Justice Through Innovation

Sometimes, a simple piece of paper can be the key to justice for survivors of human rights abuses.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), only a tiny fraction of the thousands of sexual violence cases that occur every year are properly prosecuted. Lack of evidence is one of the biggest obstacles to securing justice and reparation for survivors.

Since 2012, a skilled and dedicated team of PHR experts and staff has worked intensively with doctors, nurses, police officers, lawyers, and judges in DRC to develop a standardized forensic medical form to collect, document, and preserve court-admissible evidence of sexual violence. Our unique cross-sectoral approach, piloted in three provinces of the DRC, has nurtured exceptional relationships between professionals from the medical, law enforcement, legal, and judicial sectors – making it much easier for them to coordinate with each other and, together, bring sexual violence cases to trial.

A 2013 study found that almost 90 percent of sexual violence cases in which PHR’s medical form was used resulted in a conviction. In 2014 and 2017, the form was featured as a model for documenting sexual violence in the United Kingdom’s International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict

In December 2017, the forms played a key role in the groundbreaking conviction of 11 men, including a powerful provincial lawmaker, of crimes against humanity for the rape of dozens of little girls, as well as murder, in the town of Kavumu. The completed forms documented comprehensive medical findings from the survivors, some as young as 18 months, and were submitted as evidence to a mobile military court trying the case. An appeals court upheld the landmark ruling in July 2018.

PHR-trained health care professionals are now using the forensic form to record medical evidence of sexual violence in more than 86 health zones in North and South Kivu Provinces. This simple form is changing survivors’ lives and is a critical step in securing justice for those who suffer the horror of sexual violence across the country.

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