Hidden war crimes

Video Documentary

This ACORD documentary aims to show why tackling Sexual and Gender Based Violence requires a holistic methodology from awareness creation to soliciting political will, changing laws, arresting perpetrators, to healing and economic empowerment of women survivors. This cannot be achieved without changed attitudes in society.

ACORD works on women's rights which in the last four years has centered on ending impunity on sexual gender based violence. This has been achieved by developing research evidence and tools for policy advocacy and societal awareness creation, facilitating emergence of a culture of zero tolerance towards sexual violence; developing the capacity of stakeholders for enhanced prevention, responding and monitoring of gender based violence; facilitating restitutive justice through community livelihoods programming and lobbying decision makers for the establishment of reparation funds for survivors.

Hidden War Crimes

A beneficiary of the MDG3 Programme standing proud in front of her banana trees.
Photo by David Mudachi/ACORD

Challenging the Impunity on Sexual and Gender Based Violence in countries of the Great Lakes Region was a three year regional programme (2009-2011) implemented by ACORD in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda with funding from the Dutch Government's MDG3 fund. It was motivated by the need to expose the suppressed sexual crimes of war experienced by mainly women and girls, ending the impunity of perpetrators and facilitating their arrest and punishment. Central was the need to ensure justice, healing and restitution for victims of the monstrous crimes and ultimately provide them closure.

Though the necessary legal frameworks at regional level exist (e.g. the Great Lakes Region Protocol on Security, Stability and Development) establishing standards to address SGBV; obliges member states to punish perpetrators; incorporates preventive aspects; and encourages maximum sentences among others; there is a distinct deviation between these regional codes and the reality on the ground where sexual violations continue unabated and countries in conflict lack the structures and systems to protect girls and women as vulnerable groups, and to provide them the much needed justice.

The regional perspective and nature of the programme was crucial in the establishment of law, security and protection against sexual violence violation of women and girls. Internal (single country) conflicts often have a cylindrical impact with fleeing populations and criminals alike, traversing countries and the region due to its porous borders. A regional perspective was therefore necessary to enhance law, security and accountability of these nations in line with the international peace and security protocols they have ratified, to address the elusiveness of sexual crime perpetrators and reduce the vulnerability of women and girls in both conflict and peace settlements e.g. Internal Displaced People (IDP) and refugee camps.

Legal Policy Review

A key aspect of the programme has also been building evidence through data collection and legal policy review to prompt establishment of appropriate legal frameworks and institutions, justice and reparations for survivors of sexual crimes. Research tools developed include a Sexual Gender Based Violence Index piloted in target countries; judicial audits of legal practice on SGBV in all five countries; research on protection and reparations mechanisms for survivors of SGBV. A qualitative evaluation guide for judicial recording and evidence management of SGBV cases was also developed for use by judiciaries, legal institutions -among others - in the five countries of focus and the continent at large.

ACORD is set on utilising its strength of linking local issues to policy agendas for policy and practice change. The programme's response used a three tier strategy to address the complex needs of the primary target populace who are girls and women survivors of sexual gender based violence inflicted them in conflict and post conflict times. The programme sought to facilitate i) establishment of effective law, protection and justice mechanisms to ensure justice for victims and the end of impunity of offenders, ii) cultural change and practice in relation to sexual violence and crime and iii) community and state reparation for survivors of SGBV.


A beneficiary of the MDG3 programme improving her livelihood status by selling grains at the marketplace.
Reparations reduces vulnerability of women thus enabling them to engage in income generating activities.
Photo by David Mudachi/ACORD

  • gender
  • sexual violence
  • violence against women
  • women