Today, in an informative event hosted by Amnesty International and the DC Women’s Bar Association, panelists Daphne Jayasinghe, Acting Advocacy Director Violence Against Women for Amnesty International USA, Mercedeh Momeni, Former Associate Legal Officer for the Judicial Chambers at United Nations Tribunal for Rwanda, and
Nicky Smith, Deputy Director Government Relations and Advocacy for International Rescue Committee, spoke on the topic of violence against women in conflict and, also, the International Violence Against Women Act.
First, Mercedeh Momeni spoke, mainly from a legal perspective about the past, present, and future of justice for victims of gender-based violence, especially sexual violence. A lack of a venue or mechanism for “redressing crimes” was highlighted as a significant obstacle for facilitating justice and closure for victims of gender-based atrocities. Ms. Momeni discussed the historical progression of judicial practices regarding gender-based violence, specifically norms and procedures established in different post-war eras. Most notably, she addressed the issues of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as crimes to be addressed within international jurisdiction. Also, Ms, Momeni mentioned a highly relevant case from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which recognized rape as an international crime, a crime against humanity and as a genocidal crime, because it was systematically employed with the intent to destroy a specific group.
Next, Nikki Smith recounted her extensive experience working in refugee camps and other international settings in the aid field. Ms. Smith described horrific tales of the abuse of what she called, “unequal power”, where vulnerable women and girls suffer tremendously; they are faced with the difficult choice of becoming refugees, plunging face-first into the difficulties of camp life, or staying behind and running the risk of being captured, raped, or killed. No matter what choice is made, essential services and supplies are always scarce.
Finally, Daphne Jayasinghe addressed the important International Violence against Women Act, which has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate. This legislation, which effectively addresses education, economic opportunity, health care, legal and judicial initiative funding, and funds for programs that seek to change social attitudes, would authorize one billion dollars in funding over five years and create a coordinator position which holds the rank and status of ambassador at large. While bipartisan support exists, more must be done to rally support and ensure the IVAWA’s success.
Date: October 7, 2008
Location: Vinson & Elkins LLP 1455 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Attended by: Sarah Shebby