USIU-Africas Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice Commemorate the International Justice Day

By Stacie Mwangi and Terry Odhiambo

On July 17, 2023, the students and faculty from the Criminal Justice program commemorated International Justice Day by participating in a symposium held at the Kenya Women and Children Wellness Centre (KWCWC) founded by Mrs. Deloris Jordan. The symposium's objective was to explore the intricate challenges associated with attaining justice for victims of sexual violence in conflict situations under the framework of international criminal justice. Dr. Elizabeth Meassick, Vice President of Development at the KWCWC, described the center as a facility dedicated to preventative and response efforts. She mentioned that the significance of the Data Centre lies in its ability to safeguard evidence and guarantee the preservation and protection of such evidence, ensuring that justice, albeit perhaps delayed, is not denied.

The Rt. Hon Patricia Scotland KC, the Commonwealth Secretary General, delivered the inaugural keynote address. In her address, she acknowledged the significant milestone of the 25th anniversary since the ratification of the Rome Statute. She noted that after 25 years, the Statute continues to uphold the principle that acts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide shall not evade accountability. She acknowledged that sexual violence is employed as a strategic tool during armed conflicts, serving to instill fear, manipulate ethnic compositions, and dismantle societal structures. Nevertheless, she emphasized the imperative for the younger generation to assume responsibility for upholding global justice principles.

Some of the discussions were on the necessity of adopting intergenerational strategies to address sexual assault, driven by a fervent aspiration to comprehend our nation's history and the global landscape of justice on an intellectual level. Panelists also provided insight into the profound consequences of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and emphasized the importance of comprehending the significant influence of cultural norms on SGBV. This understanding is crucial for pursuing justice, eradicating impunity, and safeguarding the dignity of individuals within our society. There were also discussions on the obstacles that impede efforts to enhance national capabilities, particularly within the context of Kenya.

Dr. Simeon Sungi shared his expertise on "Advancing Accountability and Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence in Conflict” alongside Professor Marion Mutugi, EBS, Commissioner, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. She explained that the Commission has advocated for the government to recognize the rights of survivors, implemented restorative justice practices, and established contingency plans to prevent conflicts. Dr. Sungi provided an overview of the national and international frameworks used to define sexual offenses. Furthermore, he underscored the importance of recognizing rape as a distinct criminal offense.

Dr. Serge Brammertz, the United Nations Under-Secretary General at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, expounded upon the insights gained through the prosecution of these crimes, i.e. the inclusion of sexual violence as a component of conflict; the inextricable linkage between conflict and manifestations of sexual violence; the current focus of the judicial system is primarily on the perpetrators of crimes; and it is imperative to adopt measures within the justice system that prioritize the needs and experiences of victims and survivors.

The symposium provided students with in-depth knowledge and understanding of sexual violence in conflict, gaining insights from experts, practitioners, and survivors. It also highlighted the need for a multifaceted approach and collaboration between different disciplines, bridging the gap between theory and practice. The event also highlighted the international dimensions of the topic, emphasizing the role of international justice mechanisms in holding perpetrators accountable.

Students were encouraged to be bold advocates against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), inspiring them to work towards a safer future for their communities. The symposium also provided insights into the challenges faced by national institutions in addressing sexual violence, such as updated legal frameworks, survivor protection mechanisms, and preventive measures. Networking opportunities were provided, fostering relationships, exchanging ideas, and potentially finding career opportunities in the criminal justice field.

The students were accompanied by Dr. Simeon Sungi and Ms. Terry Odhiambo

Social Media