In the Spotlight

IAWJ Member Judge Linda Murnane was honored with the 2019 Mayre Rasmussen Award for the Advancement of Women in International Law by the ABA’s Section of International law.

ABA’s Section of International Law, in its 2019 Annual Conference, gave the 2019 Mayre Rasmussen Award for the Advancement of Women in International Law to Hon. Linda Murnane, IAWJ Member and currently Solutions Consultant with LexisNexis in Miamisburg, Ohio.

Linda Murnane is a retired US Air Force Judge Advocate and retired Chief Circuit Military Judge. After serving for nearly 30 years on active duty, she was the Executive Director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights for two years. Then, she worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon for the better part of a decade.

IAWJ President, Hon. Vanessa Ruiz, on behalf to the National Association of Women Judges, presented flowers to Judge Murnane during the ceremony.


IAWJ Member, Hon. Lori T. Spivak has been appointed to the Court of Appeal of Manitoba, Canada.

“During her many years on the bench, Justice Spivak has presided over a full range of cases in criminal, constitutional and civil law. She is co-chair of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Judicial Education Committee, which is responsible for planning the educational conferences and programs for the court. She has also worked with the National Judicial Institute, along with other judges, on the development of an Education Plan for new judges. She is a Board member for both the Manitoba Law Reform Commission and the Canadian Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges.”

Lawyer’s Daily

Read more at Laywer’s Daily.


Hon. Janet Tello from the Peruvian Association of Wome Judges Wins 2019 Faces for Equality Award

Hon. Tello is a Supreme Court Justice of Peru, a member of the IAWJ and the President of the Peruvian Association of Women Judges (AMPJ). She won the 2019 Faces for Equality (#RostrosPorLaIgualdad) of the Embassy of Canada in Peru and Bolivia.

You can watch her message below.


Judge Maguy Florestal, IAWJ member from Haiti, was appointed by the Senate, among other judges, to run for a position at the Court of Cassation.

According to Vanessa Dalzon, the writer of the BalistradHon. Maguy Florestal should be remembered for her life dedicated to the judiciary, as a respected judge and as a model for other women in the judiciary, even if she is not selected for the position.

Before she started working at the Court of Appeals, Hon. Maguy Florestal managed projects to prevent and eliminate violence against women and children. For three years, she was responsible for a project of the International Association of Women Judges to eradicate violence against women, human trafficking, and the domesticity of children.

Read more about Hon. Maguy Florestal here.


President, Hon. Vanessa Ruiz, represented the IAWJ at the UN Conference on Contemporary Challenges on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers from a Global Perspective.

The conference took place on February 9-11, 2019 and was organized by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and the New York Office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation.

The conference was called by the UN Special Rapporteur on Judicial Independence, Diego Garcia Sayan, and was held under the auspices of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. 

A selected high-level group of judges from around the world, including IAWJ President, Hon. Vanessa Ruiz, surveyed current challenges to judicial independence and considered the desirability of amending or supplementing the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 1985.

Read more on our News Blog.


IAWJ member, Hon. Tanya R. Kennedy will deliver the 2019 commencement address for Penn State Law.

Hon. Tanya R. Kennedy, who is a New York Supreme Court Justice, former supervising judge of Civil Court in New York County and a Penn State alumna, will deliver the 2019 commencement address for Penn State Law on Saturday, May 11, at University park. 

Justice Kennedy is the immediate Past President of the National Association of Women Judges. She “began her legal career at the New York City Law Department, Office of the Corporation Counsel, where she worked in both the Bronx Family Court and Bronx Tort Divisions and was promoted to deputy assistant chief while assigned to the Tort Division. Prior to joining the judiciary, Kennedy served as principal law clerk to former Associate Justice Barry A. Cozier in the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department.”

Read more on our News Blog.


Four Members of the IAWJ and the Tanzania Women Judges Association were appointed to the court of appeals.

Hon. Rehema KerefuHon. Barke SehelHon. Dr. Mary Levira, and Hon. Winifrida Beatrice Korosso are the members chosen to sit on the bench of Tanzania’s highest court.

Previously in this court, only 3 out 12 judges sitting on the bench were women.


Judith Resnik and Brenda Murray to brief the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on How to Evaluate the Civil Rights of Women in Prison.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a public briefing on February 22 to “evaluate the civil rights of women in prison, including deprivations of medical needs; implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act; and sufficiency of programs to prepare women for life after release.” Judith Resnik from the IAWJ Board of Managerial Trustees and Brenda Murray, IAWJ member, are two of the panelists confirmed for the briefing.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, was established by the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and “is the only independent, bipartisan agency charged with advising the President and Congress on civil rights and reporting annually on federal civil rights enforcement.”

Read more here.


Justice Ayesha A. Malik and Justice Alia Neelum are Members of the Committee for Protection of Women Judges in Lahore, Pakistan.

The Lahore High Court Chief Justice constituted a Committee for the Protection of Women Judges “to take action against hooliganism by lawyers in district courts” toward female judges.

The committee was formed after receiving complaints from women judges and it is constituted by 4 members. Among them, two are IAWJ members: Justice Ayesha A. Malik, who will preside over the committee, and Justice Alia Neelum.

Read the full article at The News.


IAWJ and Spanish Association of Women Judges member, Magistrate Lara Esteve, was interviewed for Diario16 about the status and challenges of gender based violence courts and complaints in her country.

Gender based violence courts in Spain are overwhelmed with complaints. Magistrate Esteve explains that these courts must face real human drama where an aggressor could be the person the victim loved the most. These cases are complex, she elaborates, it is hard to discern the interest of a woman that has been assaulted by a partner, or former partner, and/or that has children, whose level of immediate danger must be evaluated since children are considered direct victims of gender based violence. Moreover, decisions on these cases must be made within 72 hours.

“Each proceeding is a particular drama which usually involves many members of the family, which requires the contribution of numerous judicial, assistance, administrative or police resources.”

Read more here.


IAWJ Member and member of the Spanish Association of Women Judges (AMJE), Magistrate Lucia Avilés wrote an OpEd for elPeriódico titled “Due diligence“.

She claims that creating and applying policies to eradicate violence against women are an obligation of the state.

Since 1974 women all over the world have been advocating internationally for States to fight gender based discrimination, inequality, and violence. These women have had successes in these areas such as, the organization of an International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in Brussels, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the application of feminist policies throughout the world.

Read more here.


Hon. Francisca Zapata, President of the Association of Chilean Magistrates (MACHI) and IAWJ Member, was interviewed about the lack of promotions for women in the chilean judiciary.

Judge Zapata, was interviewed by La Tercera. The Center of Public Studies in Chile in a recent a study called “The appointment of ministers to the Supreme Court: characterization of a practice (1990-2019)” found that 70% of the Supreme Court justices in Chile are males. When asked why this is so, Judge Zapata explained that “there are normative and cultural barriers in the appointment system that prevent, or delay, women’s advancement to higher positions, especially the Supreme Court.”

Read more here.


IAWJ President Hon. Vanessa Ruiz Writes OpEd for UNODC.


Women Judges and a Gender Perspective in Ensuring Judicial Independence and Integrity”, Judge Ruiz addresses how women enrich the judiciary by promoting its integrity and adding new perspectives to old problems.

“The judiciary will not be trusted if it is viewed as a bastion of entrenched elitism, exclusivity, and privilege, oblivious to changes in society and to the needs of the most vulnerable. … That is why the presence of women is essential to the legitimacy of the judiciary.”

Read more here.


IAWJ Member, Prof. Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, published an OpEd for The Hill.com.

In it, she, along with Rebecca Hughes, analyze the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) proposed “Convention and Recommendations Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work“ and its implications for the #MeToo movement.

 The ILO is attempting to create the first legally binding international treaty on violence and harassment in the workplace. If ratified, it could potentially “codify some of the demands of #MeToo into international law.”

Read more on our News Blog here.


IAWJ Member, Hon. Uwani Abba Aji, has been appointed Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The IAWJ wishes to congratulate Justice Abba Aji for this new chapter of her career. Justice Abba Aji is also member of one of our member associations: the National Association of Women Judges, Nigeria (NAWJN). After careful consideration, the Nigerian Senate confirmed Justice Abba Aji’s appointment on December 20 due to her outstanding work.


IAWJ Member, Hon. Kholoud Al-Faqih, stars in a documentary of her journey as a Judge in a Shari’a court.

Judge Al-Faqih is starring in a 76 minute documentary of her life as one of only two women judges appointed to Palestine’s Shari’a court. Judge Al-Faqih appears as herself in a documentary that explores her professional and personal experiences. She became a judge in the shari’a courts in Palestine in 2009.

Read more here.


IAWJ Member, Hon. Helen Winkelmann was appointed Chief Justice of New Zealand.

The IAWJ wishes to congratulate Hon. Helen Winkelmann for this new step in her career.

Justice Winkelmann, was appointed Chief Justice of New Zealand and Judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand in December, 2018. She will start her role on March 13, 2019 as the current Chief Justice, IAWJ member Hon. Dame Sian Elias, retires.

Read more about her appointment in our News Blog.


Former IAWJ President, Chief Justice Brenda Hale, addresses the need for diversity in the judiciary.

In an interview commemorating the 1919 act that allowed women to work in the UK. 

“The judiciary needs to be more diverse so that the public feel those on the bench are genuinely ‘our judges’ rather than ‘beings from another planet’,” she said. Chief Justice Hale “called for a more balanced gender representation on the UK’s highest courts as well as swifter progress promoting those from minority ethnic backgrounds and with ‘less privileged lives’.”

According to Chief Justice Hale, there is a strong presence of ethnic minority judges in UK tribunals, county courts, and district judges. However, diversity in the higher echelons needs to improve “by being more open to transfers from other [courts]”, as it is slowly starting to happen.

Read more on our News Blog.

IAWJ Member, Hon. Gita Mittal’s Court Order Leads to the Criminalization of Sextortion in Jammu and Kashmir.

The legislature has recognized sextortion as a criminal offense in punishable with  3-5 years of jail time plus a fine. Jammu and Kashmir has become the first Indian state to recognize sextortion as a separated criminal offense. The Bill “Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Laws (Sexual Offences) (Amendment Bill), 2018,”  has been signed off by the State Administrative Council headed by Governor Satya Pal Mallik. 

Read more on our News Blog.


IAWJ Board Secretary, Hon. Mina Sougrati represented the IAWJ at the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakesh.

There, on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 164 nations voted to support the Global Compact for MigrationWith almost 85% of UN Member States supporting it, the first global effort to crack down migration movements was approved. Although non-binding, this Compact includes over 20 recommendations on how to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration.

Read more on our News Blog.


IAWJ Former President, Hon. Teresita Leonardo de Castro, wrote an Op Ed for the UNODC.

In the article she discusses IAWJ’s Sextortion, which is “the abuse of power to obtain a sexual benefit or advantage.”

In the article titled “Exposing and Preventing Sextortion in the Judiciary“, Justice Leonardo de Castro she highlighted that “sextortion violates fundamental ethical standards, because even if an act may not technically constitute a violation of a penal law, people in authority should still not misuse their power by seducing subordinates and individuals over whom they exercise authority, or by enticing them to grant them sexual favors.” 

Read the full article here.


IAWJ Board Member, Hon. Esther Agelan Casasnovas, Represented the IAWJ at OHCHR’s Expert Group Meeting on Legal Capacity and Access to Justice

IAWJ Board Member, Hon. Esther Agelan Casasnovas from the Dominican Republic, represented us at OHCHR’s Expert Group Meeting on Legal Capacity and Access to Justice. 

According to Magistrate Agelan, “the exchange of information and resources among judges and government officials from countries where there have been great accomplishments in the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, gave us important tools for the creation of judicial frameworks on the matter, as well as to ensure the comprehensive care modalities that promote access to justice for persons with disabilities.”

Read more on our News Blog.


IAWJ Member, Hon. Sanji Monageng, Publishes Op Ed for the UNODC

IAWJ member, Hon. Sanji Monageng, from the International Criminal Court, wrote an Op Ed for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) titled “Effective Judicial Selections and Appointments.”

In the article, Judge Monageng talks about judicial integrity and independence and about her support of the Southern African Chief Justice Forum to create Best Practice Guidelines for Judicial Selection and Appointment of Judges. Moreover, she makes recommendations regarding the monitoring implementation of such best practices.

You can find the full article here.


IAWJ Board Member and President of the Tunisian Women Judges Association (TWJA), Hon. Saida Chebili, presented on the IAWJ’s Regional Perspective in Human Trafficking

Hon. Saida Chebili, IAWJ Board Member and President of the Tunisian Women Judges Association (TWJA), participated in the United Kingdom Association of Women Judges’ (UKAWJ) Annual Conference in Liverpool on November 9th.  She did a presentation for the Conference on the IAWJ Regional Perspective in Human Trafficking

The theme of the conference was “Migration Slavery and the Law.”


IAWJ Members participate in UNODC’s Expert Group Meeting on Gender-Related Judicial Integrity Issues in Seoul

IAWJ members, Hon. Teresita de Castro from Philippines, Hon. Eusebia Munuo from Tanzania, Hon. Adisa Zahiragic from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hon. Sanji Monageng from Botswana, and Imane El Malki from Morocco will participate in UNODC’s Expert Group Meeting on Gender-Related Judicial Integrity Issues in Seoul from December 6-7.  Along with our members will be IAWJ Senior Advisor, Nancy Hendry. 


IAWJ Member, Magistrate Mar Serna, to be Member of Spain’s next General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ)

Magistrate Mar Serna, IAWJ member and founder of IAWJ’s Spanish chapter, the Asociación de Mujeres Juezas de España (AMJE), will be part of Spain’s next General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ). 

Read more on our News Blog.


IAWJ President, Hon. Vanessa Ruiz, Moderated a Panel on Access to Justice at the World Bank’s 2018 Law, Justice, and Development Week

IAWJ President, Hon. Vanessa Ruiz, moderated a panel on access to justice with the participation of IAWJ Member, Chief Justice Irene Chirwa Mambilima of Zambia.  

Visit our News Blog to see pictures from the panel.


IAWJ Member Judges meet at the World Bank’s Law, Justice and Development Week 2018

From November 5-9, twenty IAWJ Member judges joined us for this year’s World Bank: Law, Justice, and Development Week.


IAWJ Past President Hon. Susana Medina de Rizzo was interviewed for Página 12

On October 29, the Argentinian news source Página 12 published a great interview with past IAWJ President, Dr. Susana Medina de Rizzo. In her interview, she highlighted the need for women judges to continue building bridges and closing gaps in order to

“build bridges of communication, solidarity, and the transfer of knowledge, doctrine, and jurisprudence”.

To read more about her interview visit the IAWJ News blog.


Judge Felicia Toney Williams is the First Female African-American Chief Judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Louisiana

The IAWJ congratulates long-term IAWJ member, Judge Felicia Toney Williams of the United States, for becoming the first female African-American Chief Judge  of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Louisiana. 

As Chief Judge, she is committed to  working

“hard to make sure that … [her] court serves the public in the best way possible”.

To learn more about Chief Judge Williams visit our News blog.


Chief Justice Gita Mittal welcomed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association

In a welcoming ceremony, the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) High Court Bar Association, celebrated Justice Gita Mittal’s appointment to the J&K High Court.  Justice Gita Mittal is the first woman Chief Justice of the J&K High Court. During the ceremony, the IAWJ member, ratified her commitment to equal justice for all. 

IAWJ congratulates Chief Justice Gitta Mittal, a long time and committed member! 

Read about her pioneering work on our News blog.


Judge G. Helen Whitener elected to serve as co-chair of the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission

IAWJ extends its congratulations to longtime member, Judge G. Helen Whitener, for being elected to serve as co-chair of the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission. 

As co-chair, Judge Whitener will aid in guaranteeing that Washington state courts

“treat each individual as an individual without regard to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, physical abilities, or religion.” 

Judge Whitener was previously appointed to the Pierce County Superior Court in 2015 and firmly believes in guaranteeing unbiased and equal access to justice.

Read more about this news in our News blog.


Twenty-seven IAWJ Members from sixteen Countries attended the National Association of Women Judges’ Annual Meeting

Twenty-seven IAWJ judges from sixteen countries joined their US colleagues at the annual meeting of the National Association of Women Judges, held in San Antonio Texas, October 3-6. During the meeting, IAWJ President Vanessa Ruiz was interviewed about IAWJ’s mission and programs. She spoke about the close and longstanding relationship between IAWJ and NAWJ.


IAWJ Board of Directors and Members Participated in the Fourth International Conference on Judging with a Gender Perspective

IAWJ Board of Directors and members, including the Mexican Chapter of the IAWJ, participated in the Fourth International Conference on Judging with a Gender Perspective, sponsored by the Supreme Court of Mexico, under the leadership of IAWJ Vice-President, Justice Margarita Luna Ramos.


Justice Sheila J. Greckol received Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Alberta

Photo credit: John Ulan

IAWJ congratulates IAWJ member, Justice Sheila J. Greckol, for receiving the University of Alberta’s Distinguished Alumni Award for her contributions to international labor and human rights. She was presented with this award on September 24th at the 2018 Alumni Awards ceremony. Justice Greckol has been honored in the past for her outstanding human rights work. In 1991 she received the Suzanne Mah Memorial Award.

Justice Greckol has been a dedicated leader in human rights issues and an active member of the IAWJ. She is a member of the Canadian Chapter of the IAWJ (CCIAWJ) and has served on its Board of Directors.

To read more about Justice Greckol, please visit the IAWJ News blog.


Former President Hon. Brenda Hale part of the first female majority to hear a Supreme Court case in the UK

For the first time in 600 years, UK’s Supreme Court will have a female majority hear a case. Among the judges will be  former IAWJ President, Honorable Brenda Hale. Lady Hale has been a dedicated leader and active member of IAWJ for years. Lady Hale is also UK’s Supreme Court’s first female president.

Her work in promoting women’s access to senior roles in the  judiciary has made her an esteemed advocate for women’s rights. Her accomplishments have, once more, made history. 

To read more about this, visit the original article at The Telegraph.


Justice Imani Aboud Appointed to African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights

IAWJ congratulates IAWJ leader, Justice Imani Aboud of Tanzania, for her recent election to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. She will be sworn in on August 27th at the commencement of the 50th Ordinary Session in Arusha, Tanzania, the seat of the court. Justice Aboud replaces another IAWJ member on the court, Justice Solomy Bossa, who has joined the International Criminal Court. Two of the three newly elected judges are women.      

Justice Aboud has been a dedicated leader and active member of the IAWJ and the Tanzanian Women Judges Association. She recently served as a member of the IAWJ Board of Directors from 2016-2018 representing the African region, and as President of the Tanzania Women Judges Association from 2015-2017.  Justice Aboud shares her knowledge and leadership with fellow IAWJ members at IAWJ Biennial Conferences, global judicial forums such as a Summit on Human Trafficking at the Vatican, and IAWJ programs, including as a judicial trainer in IAWJ’s global Sextortion program, funded by the Government of the Netherlands.

To read more about Justice Aboud, please visit the IAWJ News blog.


IAWJ Participates in ILAC’s Guatemala Justice Sector Assessment

Despite being at peace for over twenty years, the impact of the conflict and violence the the 1960s internal conflict in Guatemala are still felt today, particularly in the rule of law. The International Legal Aid Consortium (ILAC) conducted a Rule of Law assessment on the Justice Sector in Guatemala.

To implement the needs assessment, ILAC sent of team of eight experts to Guatemala, two of which were IAWJ members Hon. Josselyne Béjar Rivera (Mexico) and Hon. Gabriela Knaul (Brazil). The team was able to meet with over 150 Guatemalan legal professionals, civil society actors, and international officials all across the country. The team assessed the role and response of justice sector actors in response to rule of law challenges this includes issues such as: the aftermath of conflict and impunity, land claimed by indigenous peoples and local communities, violence, discrimination, and the decriminalization of protests. 

To read more, see the IAWJ’s post here


The Asociación Mexicana de Juzagadoras had an incredibly successful year in 2017.

In the Asociación Mexicana de Juzagadoras’s (AMJAC) report for 2017-2018 they share their incredible accomplishments in their academic and educational programming. The association was able to interact and engage with different types of community stakeholders, the international judicial community, and the media to promote the rights of women in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the world.

Their activities included televised interviews on different sentencing structures in criminal matters, national forums and conferences on femicide. To engage with local stakeholders, the AMJAC organized a guided tour of a museum exposition discussing the issue of Femicide in Mexico. AMJAC was also able to engage with members of all levels of the judiciary on multiple occasions including IAWJ Board Member Hon. Margarita Beatriz Luna Ramos, a judge presiding on the Supreme Court of Mexico.

To read more of the Asociación Mexicana de Juzgadoras’ activities during 2017-2018 please click here!


IAWJ Delegation at the 62nd UN Commission on the Status of Women

14 March 2018, is the International Association of Women Judge’s delegation’s first day at the 62nd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. This year’s CSW theme is “Empowering Rural Women and Girls.” IAWJ’s delegation this year has some of our members from Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Mexico, Argentina, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Philippines, and the United States. In addition to attending the CSW official meetings, the delegation will be hosting a panel entitled “City Justice/Country Justice” where our judges will discuss the experiences of rural women and girls seeking justice and compare them to those of their urban counterparts. You can find more information on the panel here, and find the delegation’s agenda here.

To read more about IAWJ at CSW click here!


IAWJ is proud to congratulate long time member, Justice Solomy Balungi Bossa.

On 06 December 2017, long time IAWJ member, Justice Solomy Balungi Bossa, was elected as a judge to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Justice Bossa will serve a nine-year term on the international court. While sitting as a judge on Uganda’s High Court, Justice Bossa participated in IAWJ’s two-week training program, Jurisprudence of Equality, where she applied international conventions to cases alleging crimes of discrimination and violence against women in Entebbe, Uganda in 1998.

Justice Bossa  previously served on the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, where she tried Hutu tribal members who were accused of grave human rights violations. When ICTR officially closed in 2001, Justice Bossa accepted a five-year appointment to the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. During this time, Justice Bossa was also appointed to the East African Court of Justice, making her the first woman to receive such an appointment.

Justice Bossa has continued to try important matters of human rights during the past three years that she has spent on the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. The IAWJ is honored to have Justice Bossa as a part of its membership and would like to congratulate her on this achievement.

Out of the six available positions, five were filled by female nominees. IAWJ is glad to see a continued representation of women judges on the ICC bench. Congratulations to all of the elected judges.


IAWJ member and former Vice President Marianne de Rooij (The Netherlands) represented us as a member of the ILAC justice sector mission to the Central African Republic (CAR). De Rooij shares her findings here.

CAR has a long and violent history of authoritarian regimes, armed mutinies and serial rebellions, along with impunity for gross human rights violations and atrocity crimes.

Thousands have been killed in the armed conflict that began in 2013 between the Seleka (predominantly Muslims) and Anti-Balaka (predominantly Christians and Animists), and hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes.  The UN peace keeping mission MINUSCA arrived in 2014. Despite succesful democratic elections in early 2016, outbursts of violence continue to be a daily reality in CAR. Remote areas remain out of control of the government.  During the assessment, a so called “ville morte” (a general strike) took place in Bangui; the strike and accompanying demonstrations resulted in the several violent deaths of the participants.

CAR authorities created the Special Criminal Court (SCC) in 2014. Although not yet active, the Special Court will work within CAR’s national justice system, and is tasked to prosecute violations of human rights and international humaniatrian law.  The SCC is seeking foreign and national judges to preside on the SCC, which will cooperate with the ICC.

ILAC’s assessment team examined the needs of the national justice sector, the barriers present to fighting against impunity, and ways in which support might be provided in overcoming these challenges.  The full resulting Assessment Report will be published in March 2017 on ILAC’s website http://www.ilacnet.org/.

The team found a severely damaged judicial infrastructure.  There are not enough police officers, judges, procescutors, lawyers, and court personnel, and there is a lack of basic equipment. The justice system is chronically underfunded.  People working in the justice sector are unsafe.  Despite  terrible working conditions, the people working in the judiciary are dedicated to the rule of law.

There are very few women working  in the justice sector in the CAR. The female judge of the court of first instance in Bangui told the team that she is well respected in her work by the public and her colleagues. She hopes there will be more women working in the judiciary soon, but this a very slow process. The team visited a women’s prison and noted that the guards are mainly men.

There is no national women judges association, but a women’s jurists association,  “L’association des femmes juristes”, is very active in CAR. Together with many NGO’s  and ABA/ROLI, the women jurists – among them judges – organize legal aid for women and so-called “centres d écoute” ( “listening centers”), where women can tell their stories and receive medical and psychological help.  There is a great need for these services due to the high incidents of rape, sexual assault and violence against women and children.  In most cases, the perpetrators are not prosecuted. In the fragile security situation women fear to come forward, and it is difficult for the justice system to arrest suspects, conduct investigations or protect witnessess.

The ILAC team proposed a number of recommandations for building the CAR national justice system, within several directions: regional cooperation, protection of witnesses, and training and education in international law.  In addition, alongside the SCC, the national system –its lawyers and judges–must be strengthened and integrated into the assistance. With de Rooij’s participation, the Assessment team identified two priorities:  training and education on gender equality, and a focus on prosecuting gender based violence. Both priorities are an important part of the future development of the justice system in CAR.

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