Draft “Murad Code” Aims to Improve Investigations of Sexual Violence in Conflict

In addition to being Juneteenth, today is the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. As Robert U. Nagel and Kate Fin outlined at Just Security, the United Nations recently released a new handbook for field missions on sexual violence in conflict. The Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI) also has released a draft of its “Global Code of Conduct for the Documentation and Investigation of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence” — the Murad Code — named after Nobel Laureate Nadia Murad.

The draft Murad Code, produced in partnership with the United Kingdom’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) and in consultation with Nadia’s Initiative, aims to be a globally-supported code of conduct for “safe, effective and survivor-centric documentation of conflict-related sexual violence.” IICI is dedicated to training investigators who focus on international crimes to conduct their probes to the highest professional standards and in a way that respects survivors (disclaimer: I serve on IICI’s board).

The code is a response to troubling past practices in which investigations of sexual and gender-based violence were ineffective, re-traumatizing, unnecessarily duplicative, and lacking in proper security measures. Too often, they also are undertaken by untrained (if well-meaning) investigators, proceed without genuine informed consent, and fail to provide adequate medical and psycho-social follow-up.

This draft is the result of a process of inter-disciplinary research and in-depth preliminary discussions with more than 160 survivors, humanitarians, researchers, donors, groups documenting human rights violations, and other experts from across the globe.

The draft code is premised on eight key principles:

  1. Put the survivor first
  2. Take care in terms of time and space logistics
  3. Acquire local knowledge
  4. Undergo adequate preparation
  5. Minimize harm
  6. Cultivate and convey competence
  7. Adopt trauma-informed methodologies
  8. Proceed with integrity and a sense of responsibility

The draft is open for global consultations until December 2020. Your feedback is welcome here.

IMAGE: Iraqi human rights activist Nadia Murad, co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, listens during a press conference at the National Press Club October 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

 

About the Author(s)

Beth Van Schaack

Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights, Stanford Law School; Former Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the U.S. State Department. All views are her own. Member of the editorial board of Just Security. Follow her on Twitter (@BethVanSchaack).