Recogniz[es] the need for concrete action to detect, deter and redress instances of sexual violence to effectively protect asylum-seekers and refugees,
Recogniz[es] further that the prevention of sexual violence can contribute to averting coerced displacement including refugee situations and to facilitating solutions,...
Executive Committee Conclusion No. 73 (XLIV) (1993), Preamble
Refugee Protection and Sexual Violence
"Prevention is better than cure"
States have primary responsibility for ensuring the physical protection of refugees within their territory. UNHCR's role in providing international protection most often involves ensuring that Governments take the necessary action to protect the refugees within their territory.
All possible measures must be taken to prevent the occurrence of sexual violence. First, the nature of the risks with which the refugees may be confronted must be assessed (see 1.6 Causes of Sexual Violence above). UNHCR representatives, in collaboration with other relevant UN bodies and agencies, host Governments and NGOs, should make every effort to ensure that the following measures are implemented to prevent sexual violence from occurring.
Urges States, relevant United Nations organizations as well as non-governmental organizations, as appropriate, to... integrate considerations specific to the protection of refugee women into assistance activities from their inception, including when planning refugee camps and settlements, in order to be able to deter, detect and redress instances of physical and sexual abuse as well as other protection concerns at the earliest possible moment.
Executive Committee Conclusion No. 64 (XLI) (1990), paragraph (a) (v)
Refugee Women and International Protection
Urges States to take all measures necessary to prevent or remove threats to the personal security of refugees and asylum-seekers in border areas and elsewhere, including by affording UNHCRand, as appropriate, other organizations approved by the Governments concerned prompt and unhindered access to them, by situating refugee camps and settlements in secure locations, by ensuring the safety of vulnerable groups, by facilitating the issuance of personal documentation, and by involving the refugee community, both women and men. in the organization and administration of their camps and settlements.
Executive Committee Conclusion No. 72 (XLIV) (1993), paragraph (b)
Personal Security of Refugees
2.1 Preventive Measures involving Refugees and Refugee Workers
Refugee workers can take a number of important practical steps to reduce the risk of sexual violence. However, it is important to note that the most effective measures require the refugee community to play a prominent role, actively participating in promoting self-protection. Close liaison with the local authorities is also of paramount importance.
a) Design and location of refugee camps
Mistakes in the early phases of the creation of a camp are extremely difficult to correct satisfactorily later.
Ensure that the physical design and location of refugee camps enhances, rather than undermines, their physical security. Layout and organization of the camps and facilities are determining factors in the protection of refugees. Every effort should be made to encourage the refugee community to identify and provide the appropriate solutions to such problems.
Special measures which may need to be implemented to reduce exposure to risk:
* Avoid the establishment of camps within close proximity to the border of the country of origin, or in areas that are unsafe, e.g., subject to banditry.
Design and social structure
* Consult with the refugees, and other sources if possible, to understand their preferred physical and social organization, and seek to replicate it in the camp, ensuring in particular that women are involved in this process.
* Conserve the original community, to the extent possible, from the country of origin within the new site.
* Provide for special accommodation (e.g. specially secured housing) for unaccompanied women and girls and lone female heads of household in full consultation with them. For instance, accommodate single women with sufficient security personnel on guard. Remember to ensure adequate security when vulnerable individuals are grouped together, since they could become a target for attack.
* Attempt to ensure that unrelated families do not share communal living and sleeping space.
Services and facilities
* Improve lighting where possible, particularly on the paths used by women at night for access to services and facilities.
* Ensure, where practical, that women and girls are able to lock their sleeping and washing facilities.
* Ensure that basic services and facilities at camps are located in such a manner that refugee women do not become exposed to attack. For instance, build latrines at a distance from huts which enables women to use them safely at night.
b) Security patrols
* Encourage patrols of security personnel by foot and vehicle during the day and/or at night, as appropriate.
* Form refugee security patrols or small vigilance groups, preferably by trusted members of the refugee community, to guard at night, with the protection of refugee women as a first priority. In some camps, refugees have done so by shouting and banging cooking pots and pans to draw attention to and scare away attackers.
c) Provision of protective materials
* Where appropriate, provide communities with materials which can assist them in protecting themselves, such as fencing or barbed wire. The experience in some remote refugee camps showed that night banditattacks reduced dramatically when sections of the camps were fenced off, using thorn bushes.
d) Promote alternatives to closed camps
* Identify and promote alternatives to camps where possible, particularly alternatives to closed camps and detention centres. Prolonged stay in camps can lead to a breakdown in law and order.
e) Where incarceration occurs
Note[s] with deep concern that large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers in different areas of the world are currently the subject of detention or similar restrictive measures by reason of their illegal entry or presence in search of asylum, pending resolution of their situation,
Express[es] the opinion that in view of the hardship which it involves, detention should normally be avoided,
Executive Committee Conclusion No. 44 (XXXVII) (1986), paragraphs (a) and (b)
Detention of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers
* UNHCR should always seek to ensure that asylum-seekers are not detained. Where individual asylum-seekers are, nonetheless, detained upon entry, insist that they are not incarcerated with criminals and that women are not with males, unless they are together with male family members.
* It is UNHCR's policy that refugee children should not be-detained. Due to the harmful effects detention may have, it must be "used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time". (Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 37(b)).
f) Camp meetings and plan of action
* Bearing in mind cultural sensitivities, hold camp meetings between UNHCR, NGOs, police, military and other relevant government officers to discuss the problem of sexual violence. Such discussions could form part of the regular interagency meetings or be addressed in security meetings where such meetings take place. In particular, possible causes should be analyzed and a strategy to address and prevent incidents formulated. An inter-agency plan of action could be developed for implementation of these Guidelines and to clarify roles and activities in addressing this issue.
* Ensure that refugees and particularly representatives from refugee women's groups participate in discussions on this issue and have the opportunity to speak about any special needs they may have. When necessary, for example where women feel inhibited or uneasy discussing matters in the presence of male refugees, separate meetings should be held for women and for men. Make use of such fora to explain UNHCR's protection role, in particular regarding prevention of sexual violence.
g) Involvement of female refugees
* In many camps, the leadership structure is dominated by male refugees. It is important that the involvement of more female leaders be encouraged and the role and responsibilities of women be broadened and strengthened. The establishment of refugee women's committees and groups is important to represent the interests of women in the camp, and UNHCR should play an active role in promoting this.
h) Specific focus on vulnerable individuals
* Identify individuals or groups who may be particularly vulnerable to violence, e.g., lone female heads of household with disabled family members, or women who are economically successful, and develop appropriate strategies to address their particular protection and assistance problems.
i) Preempt any retaliation
* Experience has shown that retaliatory violence can erupt following an incident in which refugees, the local community, outside attackers or security personnel have been killed or injured. Where retaliation can be anticipated, increased security measures should be adopted. This may include warning refugees to take extra precautions (such as to remain indoors), requesting the deployment of additional security forces and/or securing greater UNHCR presence in the field.
j) UNHCR access to detainees
* UNHCR must have direct and unhindered access to detainees to monitor their safety and conditions. Access to police holding cells or prisons may be important to prevent sexual violence from occurring in detention. Where refugees have been placed in police custody on suspicion of or having been charged with committing a crime, it may be necessary to visit the refugees to ensure their well being and humane treatment. Where thepolice know that a UNHCR staff member may visit, or that following an initial visit the staff member will be returning, this may deter mistreatment. Such visits are also reassuring to the detainee and may be used to enquire whether family members are aware of the detention. Liaison with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who have primary responsibility for detainees, is important.
k) Family reunification
* Ensure, where desired, reunification of families separated in different camps or inside the same camp, as well as between the country of origin, the country of asylum, and the country of resettlement so as to reduce the number of unaccompanied vulnerable individuals.
l) Screening and monitoring of unaccompanied children in foster care
* Where unaccompanied children are placed in foster families, the foster family should be properly screened before placement. Close monitoring should follow placement to ensure the welfare of the child, and in particular that the child is not sexually abused by members of the foster family.
m) Personal documentation
Urges States, relevant United Nations organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations, as appropriate, to...
Issue individual identification and/or registration documents to all refugee women;...
Executive Committee Conclusion No. 64 (XLI) (1990), paragraph (a) (viii)
Refugee Women and International Protection
Calls upon States and UNHCR to ensure the equal access of women and men to all forms of personal documentation relevant to refugees' freedom of movement, welfare and civil status...
Executive Committee Conclusion No. 73 (XLIV) (1993), paragraph (c)
Refugee Protection and Sexual Violence
* Ensure that refugee women have proper personal documentation and access on an equal basis with men to whatever registration process is used to determine eligibility for assistance.
n) Choice of assistance and/or resources
* Ensure that the choice of assistance and/or resources does not expose individuals to greater risk (e.g. when collecting firewood in isolated areas is dangerous, try to provide alternative forms of fuel, provide energy-efficient stoves, and/or change the food basket, in careful consultation with nutritionists and other experts, to foods that require less cooking time).
o) Fair distribution of food and non-food items
* Ensure that all essential items, such as food, water, shelter materials and firewood reach women by distributing the items to women directly, and/or by distribution administered by women.
p) Access to female protection and medical staff and female interpreters
Reiterates the importance of ensuring the presence of female field staff in refugee programmes, including emergency operations, and the direct access of refugee women to them;
Executive Committee Conclusion No. 73 (XLIV) (1993), paragraph (h)
Refugee Protection and Sexual Violence
* Ensure that refugee women have ready access to female protection staff and female interpreters, as well as to reproductive health facilities including female medical staff and gynecologists.
q) Establish fora for discussion and dispute resolution
* Establishing fora whereby refugees can air tensions and feuds which may have arisen between various groups or clans is important to prevent the build-up of hostile emotions which could later be manifested by acts of sexual violence.
r) Sensitization of local communities
* Providing information to the local community of the host country to give them an understanding of the refugees' situation can be important in reducing friction or tension between the two communities.
* Instigating channels of communication between refugees and the local community whereby disputes and complaints can be vented may help to prevent the build-up of tension and ill-feelings.
s) Assistance to local communities
* Assistance towards community development, such as improving local schools, airstrips or government facilities, can be instrumental in keeping the peace between the refugees and the host population. This may be particularly crucial when the arrival and presence of refugees have caused negative consequences to the local people, such as degradation of the environment and depletion of natural resources.
t) Combat frustration and boredom of male refugees
* Recognize the immense frustration, boredom and feeling of dependency which may be generated by camp life, and the relevance to physical security of developing channels for this energy, including through skills training, educational, recreational and income generating activities for males, particularly among the "long stayers" and adolescents.
u) Combat alcohol and drug abuse
* Organize an education campaign on the effects of alcohol abuse, using, inter alia, community structures, schools and/or posters.
* Provide counselling to alcohol and/or substance abusers, and those closely connected with them.
* Encourage involvement in activities of collective interest, such as educational and vocational training programmes, income generating activities and cultural and sporting activities.
* In refugee camps, stop illegal wire-tapping of electricity where it is used to supply alcohol-producing equipment.
* In refugee camps, in liaison with the authorities, consider placing limits on the consumption of alcohol.
2.2 Preventive Measures involving Human Resources Management
If the deterrent measures set out above are implemented, efforts to prevent sexual violence are a relatively inexpensive exercise relying on the cost-effective and equitable distribution of goods and services, the development or reinforcement of existing protection mechanisms, and most importantly, the involvement of the refugee community itself in providing protection to its members. The following preventive steps involve recruitment and deployment of staff.
a) Recruitment of female staff
* Ensure a gender balance among recruitment of professional staff at all levels by employing greater numbers of female protection officers, field interpreters, doctors, health workers and counsellors.
b) Presence of female protection officers
* Ensure in particular the presence of at least one well-trained female protection or field officer per field office, and more in areas where refugee women are known to have particular protection problems.
* Place trained international staff, including female staff, in key field locations such as areas which are major crossing points for refugees, reception centres, camps and returnee monitoring positions.
c) Visibility in the field
* UNHCR protection and field staff should make themselves visible in the field and meet with refugee women regularly to gain first-hand information on protection problems. Their presence and interest may provide a sense of security and reassurance among the female population and thus encourage them to speak up and seek assistance when their rights are violated.
* In areas where there are no principal crossing points, or in less frequented border areas, roving protection/field officers should be deployed.
d) Close links with traditional birth attendants
* Female medical and/or protection staff should establish and maintain close links with traditional birth attendants and other refugee health workers, who can be a valuable source of information on the incidence of sexual violence as well as providing a channel for disseminating relevant information to women in the
2.3 Preventive Measures involving the Host Government
Refugee workers and their organizations should stress to the authorities their duty to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of sexual violence.
Urges States to respect and ensure the fundamental right of all individuals within their territory to personal security, inter alia by enforcing relevant national laws in compliance with international legal standards and by adopting concrete measures to prevent and combat sexual violence, including
(i) the development and implementation of training programmes aimed at promoting respect by law enforcement officers and members of military forces of the right of every individual, at all times and under all circumstances, to security of person, including protection from sexual violence,
(ii) implementation of effective, non-discriminatory legal remedies including the facilitation of the filing and investigation of complaints against sexual abuse, the prosecution of offenders, and timely and proportional disciplinary action in cases of abuse of power resulting in sexual violence,
(iii)arrangements facilitating prompt and unhindered access to all asylum seekers, refugees and returnees for UNHCR and, as appropriate, other organizations approved by the Governments concerned, and
(iv)activities aimed at promoting the rights of refugee women, including through the dissemination of the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women and their implementation, in close cooperation with refugee women, in all sectors of refugee programmes;...
Executive Committee Conclusion No. 73 (XLIV) (1993), paragraph (b)
Refugee Protection and Sexual Violence
States should be urged to adopt a firm and highly visible policy against all forms of sexual violence û including those committed by government employees by taking the following steps:
a) Advocate enactment and enforcement of national legislation
* Advocate the enactment and/or enforcement of national laws against sexual violence in accordance with international legal standards. This will include prosecution of offenders and the implementation of legal measures for the protection of the victim, e.g. restraining orders.
* Ensure that Government policy does not exclude the applicability of national legislation to refugee camps.
* Promote the ratification of relevant international human rights instruments. Details of international legal obligations can be found in Chapter 4.
b) Liaison with national women's organizations
* National women's organizations in host countries can play a valuable role in advocating and addressing the issue of violence against women. Contacts can be established with them and discussions initiated regarding the role they can play. These can also be extended to include national health, lawyers and human rights associations.
c) Facilitate the investigation of complaints of sexual violence
* The provision of victim/witness advocate programmes could be used to assist victims. It involves one person being assigned to assist a victim as her case is processed, providing support and information about the process and education to family members if needed. This concept enhances the likelihood that cases actually proceed to court and can help to prevent the retraumatization of victims by the court system.
d) Ensure protection of the victim and any witnesses from reprisals
* Ensuring protection depends on the circumstances of the attack and must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Factors to be taken into account include whether the perpetrator(s) are known to her, and whether the perpetrator(s) are able to locate her. For instance, an attack taking place in a refugee's home may be quite different from one which involves a group of women being attacked in the bush surrounding a camp. An assessment is necessary as to whether the victim was individually targeted or the attack happened at random.
* In a refugee camp situation this may entail the need to evacuate persons to another location.
e) Disciplinary action taken in cases involving government officials and refugee workers
* Advocate that prompt disciplinary action be taken in cases of abuse of power, corruption and lack of discipline of officials and refugee workers resulting in sexual violence.
f) Documentation and analysis of information
* Document cases to the extent necessary so that information can be used in assessing causes of sexual violence to assist the development of preventive and remedial strategies. Respect confidentiality to ensure the safety of refugees.
g) Sufficient presence of security personnel
* Ensure that an adequate number of security personnel, police and/or military, are present in refugee camps to provide physical protection from attackers. The number and the type of security personnel required will depend on a variety of factors, including the current security situation and the ability and performance of the existing forces in coping with that situation. Requests can be made both at the camp level and at a higher level by the UNHCR Branch Office to relevant government officials.
h) Deployment of female security personnel
* Where appropriate, deploy females as part of security forces or guards to encourage refugee women to report sexual violence incidents and to seek protection.
i) UNHCR support to national security forces where needed
* Ensure the early provision of logistical and communications support to national security forces where needed. Sometimes UNHCR may need to provide support by way of vehicles, fuel, or communications equipment to the host Government.
2.4 Preventive Measures involving Information, Education and Training
Supports the High Commissioner's efforts, in coordination with other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations competent in this area, to develop and organize training courses for authorities, including camp officials, eligibility officers, and others dealing with refugees on practical protection measures for preventing and responding to sexual violence;...
Encourages the High Commissioner to pursue actively her efforts, in cooperation with bodies and organizations dealing with human rights, to increase awareness of the rights of refugees and the specific needs and abilities of refugee women and girls and to promote the full and effective implementation of the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women;
Executive Committee Conclusion No. 73 (XLIV) (1993), paragraphs (i) and (k)
Refugee Protection and Sexual Violence
a) Public information campaigns
Information campaigns are an important tool in combatting sexual violence. Public information campaigns should be launched on the issue of sexual violence, taking into account cultural sensitivities, ethics, and the particular circumstances prevailing in the country concerned.
Target groups for information activities could include:
* UNHCR staff
* NGO staff
* government officials
* security personnel, including police officers and the military
* any others who come into contact with refugees.
Topics covered could include:
* preventive measures
* how and where to seek assistance if sexually attacked
* national and international laws prohibiting sexual violence
* sanctions and penalties associated with acts of sexual violence.
Tools which could be utilized in such campaigns include:
* pamphlets, newsletters, information bulletins, posters
* community entertainment (songs, theatre)
* verbal presentations at public or community meetings
* NGO networks, religious or other groups
* radio and other mass media
The assistance of NGOs and refugees, particularly female refugees, may be sought in developing appropriate training programmes. Video education in public information campaigns may be particularly effective. Preparing and disseminating statistics on sexual violence in refugee situations may help others become aware of this problem.
Correct false rumours and misinformation
If it becomes known that false rumours are circulating in the refugee camps in relation to sexual violence, an immediate information campaign should be launched to dispel them. (An example might be the rumour that "rape victims will receive cash benefits or resettlement opportunities").
b) Training courses could focus on:
* how to prevent sexual violence and how to respond to incidents of sexual violence (immediate and long-term action and follow-up) using these Guidelines;
* the causes and consequences of sexual violence;
* legal awareness;
* basic human rights and responsibilities. The UNHCR Training Module Human Rights and Refugee Protection,1995, is available as training material;
* the rights to personal security under national and international law, with a particular emphasis on the rights of women and girls;
* interviewing skills. The UNHCR Training Module Interviewing Applicants for Refugee Status, 1995, is available as training material.
c) In addition, various groups may benefit from more specialized training in specific areas, for example:
Refugees and local communities
Refugees and local communities should be provided with education and training, presented in a culturally appropriate way, preferably created with the involvement of refugee women.
* modifying negative attitudes towards the victims of sexual violence;
* reinforcing and fostering concepts of community responsibility for protecting and assisting its vulnerable members and assisting their families.
* educating the refugees as to their responsibilities under the laws of the country of asylum and in particular the penalties associated with violence, including sexual violence;
* widely disseminating information about cases resulting in conviction, and the sentence administered;
* informing the refugee population and the local population that UNHCR and the international community take a strong position against sexual violence. Ways suggested above under (a) Public information campaigns could be used.
Recognize the influence of community and religious leaders in this context and enlist their cooperation in changing attitudes towards sexual violence, both in terms of prevention and in alleviating the effect on the victims.
Female refugees should be made aware of their legal rights and responsibilities. In particular, they should be made aware of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against, Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Urges the High Commissioner to undertake initiatives for refugee women in the areas of leadership and skills training, legal awareness, and education; and in particular in the area of reproductive health, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of the refugees, in conformity with universally recognized international human rights and the UNHCR Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women.
Executive Committee Conclusions on the Recommendation of the Working Group: Refugee Women (1994), paragraph (b)
It is important that refugee women know in advance about the facilities and forms of assistance which are available to them should they be sexually attacked so that they can avail themselves of this help.
Refugee women should know that confidentiality will be respected and that they will be treated with sensitivity and compassion. Victims should be made comfortable about coming forward. This sort of information may encourage reporting of incidents and thereby increase the provision of assistance and protection to victims.
In particular, refugee women should be informed in advance of "do's" and "don'ts", for example:
* the need to have a medical examination as early as possible following a sexual , attack;
* to avoid washing themselves immediately following an attack as this will affect the results of any medical examination which may be crucial to any later criminal prosecution;
* to keep any evidence intact, such as preserving the clothes worn at the time of the incident without cleaning them.
Refugee leaders could be trained so that they will be in a better position to assist in modifying negative attitudes towards the victims and in fostering concepts of community responsibility. Moreover, such training could facilitate the dissemination of information on sexual violence and measures for prevention.
UNHCR, other concerned UN staff, and NGO staff
UNHCR, other concerned UN staff, and NGO staff should be aware of their duty to uphold and implement UNHCR policy as contained in the Policy on Refugee Women, the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, the Policy on Refugee Children and the Guidelines on Refugee Children, as well as these Guidelines. They should furthermore be aware of UNHCR Executive Committee Conclusions touching on this issue (in particular those relating to refugee women and sexual violence).
All UN staff members, including members of peace-keeping forces, should be reminded of their obligation to ensure that their activities conform to norms established in United Nations human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
UNHCR staff, particularly field and protection officers and interpreters, should be well-trained in interviewing skills and how to deal with incidents of sexual violence. NGO staff should be aware of their role in preventing and responding to sexual violence. These Guidelines and the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women can be used as basic documents.
Government officials should be informed of their responsibility and of the measures they should take to protect the rights of refugees, with particular emphasis on the national laws and the relevant international human rights instruments that they have ratified, and UNHCR's Executive Committee Conclusion No. 73 (XLIV) (1993) on Refugee Protection and Sexual Violence (contained in Annex 4).
Members of the security forces
Members of the security forces should be advised of the relevant codes of conduct aimed at preventing and redressing abuse of power, in particular that which involves the commission of acts of sexual violence. They should be made aware of the problem of sexual violence and ways of taking preventive and remedial protective action. Furthermore, they should be trained in interviewing skills and how to support the needs of victims to enable them to handle these cases appropriately.
d) Role of the media and human rights reports
The media and human rights reports can play an important role in some situations by putting pressure on States to provide physical protection to refugees.
See 5.1 Dealing with the Media.
2.5 Preventive Measures in the Context of Voluntary Repatriation
Calls upon States and UNHCR... to encourage the participation of refugee women as well as men in decisions relating to their voluntary repatriation or other durable solutions;
Executive Committee Conclusion No. 73 (XLIV) (1993), paragraph (c)
Refugee Protection and Sexual Violence
UNHCR voluntary repatriation programmes should attempt to combat the problem of sexual violence by taking the following steps:
* Promote and implement family reunification in the pre-repatriation stage.
* Ensure that families, including extended families, can travel as a unit. The same applies for groups of refugees, who have developed a social network in the camp (e.g. groups of female-headed households and unaccompanied women) who wish to return to the same destination. This could be ensured by linking together voluntary repatriation forms for joint travel.
* Ensure that refugee women, on an equal basis with refugee men, are provided with a viable opportunity to declare individually their desire to return or opt out of a voluntary repatriation, and have equal access to information on which to base their decision.
* Ensure the physical safety of areas, such as reception centres and transit camps and their facilities, by adopting relevant measures suggested under Design and location of refugee camps in 2.1(a) above.
* Ensure that protection activities focused on returnees give high priority to assessing the safety of returnee women. Special attention should be paid to especially vulnerable individuals, for example the disabled, pregnant women and unaccompanied minors, by identifying them early in repatriation planning and developing specific procedures to transport and receive them.
* Ensure that protection and field officers monitoring the return have a thorough knowledge of the UNHCR Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women and these Guidelines.