The main purpose of the Protocol is to promote accountability for crimes of sexual violence under international law. It does this by setting out the basic principles of documenting sexual violence as a crime under international law, gleaned from best practice in the field. The Protocol is not binding on states. Rather, it can serve as a tool to support efforts by national and international justice and human rights practitioners to effectively and protectively document sexual violence as a crime under international law – as a war crime, crime against humanity or act of genocide.
Accountability for sexual violence can come in many forms. It can be achieved through criminal prosecutions, but can also be realised through human rights litigation against responsible states or non-state actors, civil litigation, reparation claims for survivors/ witnesses of sexual violence, and transitional justice processes.
Whether accountability mechanisms are in place in a conflict or post-conflict context or whether they are a long way off, the information gathered by practitioners with immediate and facilitated access to survivors and witnesses can become critical evidence for future accountability efforts. In particular, the manner in which the information is accessed and collected and the methodology employed in the documentation process are key to ensuring the integrity of the evidence, the protection of the beneficiary community, and the empowerment of survivors through participation in the justice process. This Protocol sets out simply and clearly the basic principles to follow with these aims in mind.
The Protocol's focus is on documentation of crimes of sexual violence under international law. However, many of the basic principles set out in the Protocol will also be relevant to the documentation of these crimes in other contexts, human rights violations and abuses, and international criminal law violations not involving sexual violence.