Hogan Lovells launches second restorative justice report for victims of sexual violence in conflict

London, 21 June 2021 – Global law firm Hogan Lovells has launched its second report calling for financial justice for victims of sexual violence in conflict to coincide with the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence.

Entitled “Finance for Restorative Justice: Volume II”, the report explores States’ moral and legal responsibility to guarantee financial reparations for sexual violence in conflict from crimes against humanity and terrorism, having regard to how these crimes were financed, and in particular relating to the genocidal acts of Islamic State.

The report is authored by Hogan Lovells’ Head of UK Trade Aline Doussin, International Pro Bono Partner Yasmin Waljee, and London associates Haylea Campbell and Megan Smith. The team’s research was supported in consultation with the Global Survivors Fund founded by Nobel Prize winners Nadia Murad (Yazidi survivor of sexual violence) and Dr Denis Mukwege; UK NGO Redress; Goldsmith Chambers led by Anthony Metzer QC; and Lotus Flower, a UK charity led by genocide survivor Taban Shoresh for Yazidi women.

Key highlights from the report include:

Recognition of the link between sexual violence in conflict, terrorism, genocide and organised financial crime, with a series of recommendations including:

  • Transparency by member states to account for the assets they have frozen as a result of sanctions designations and confiscations of assets;
  • The introduction of a power to confiscate and re-purpose frozen assets through a human rights compliant process for the benefit of survivors;
  • A commitment to ensure a proportion of fines and penalties imposed for breaches of terrorist financing legislation, particularly where breach of sanctions are available for survivors who are bear the consequences of such breaches.

Commenting, Aline Doussin, said: “We are truly grateful for dedication and assistance of our consultation partners for our latest report. To us, its striking that the perceived lack of finance available for survivors’ assistance may contribute to the lack of effective remedy for genocide and crimes against humanity…We know that the world community has been focused on counter-terrorism measures which tackle the financing of terrorism. This is increasingly addressed through the use of sanctions, particularly the designation of individuals.”

“Regrettably there is no international obligation requiring member states to disclose how much has been frozen and no clarity on what happens to assets; in some cases they are frozen in perpetuity or may be returned to their owner after a period of time, or retained by the State imposing the sanctions. Certainly these sanctions do not consider the impact on survivors.”

Yasmin Waljee, added: “In 2014 the UK hosted the first ever Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict which cemented global political will and put PSVI firmly on the world map and the international peace and security agenda. Lord Ahmed Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict in June 2020 said: 'We are determined to tackle these most abhorrent of crimes. The UK remains committed to take action – action to prevent violence, action to support survivors and tackle the stigma they face – the appalling sense of stigma – and action to hold perpetrators to account'."

"Our report, highlights a means to do this. It demonstrates a growing recognition of the role that human rights abuses, including sexual violence in the context of conflict, play in serious and organised crime, particularly in relation to grand corruption involving repressive regimes and non-state actors. The freezing and confiscation of the assets of such actors would clearly be in the public interest, bring about accountability and a measure of justice for survivors. We thank our consultation partners on their invaluable contributions in support of this report.”

In a forward for the report, Dr Denis Mukwege, Co-Founder of the Global Survivors Fund, and 2018 Nobel Laureate, commented: “Financing reparations is a real challenge to which we must respond by finding innovative solutions. One of the options worth exploring is re-purposing the assets, seized through sanctions regimes and associated fines for the purpose of reparations for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and other human rights violations...”

“More concretely, this would mean the allocation of assets of human rights violators for the benefit of the victims who desperately need the means to rebuild their lives.”

The report’s release follows the UK government’s newly acquired sanctions policy powers under the UK Human Rights Sanctions regime initiated last summer, as a means to tackle human rights abuses, and further address serious corruption around the world.

Aline Doussin commented: “While we can only welcome these developments and encourage States the world over to follow suit, we call on governments to consider using those new powers to allow compensation to the victims of those abuses”.

The full report can be viewed here and last year’s report can be viewed here.

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