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Shadow Reports for the UN Human Rights Council and UN Committee Against Torture on Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military

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In September and October 2014, the Gender Justice Clinic, together with the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice, submitted two shadow reports on the issue of sexual violence in the U.S. military to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT). The Clinic sought to build coalitions with peer civil society organizations and was able to gather support from SWAN with its UPR shadow report, and from the ACLU, Equality Now, SWAN and the Military Rape Crisis Center as they agreed to sign on to the Center's CAT shadow report. In June 2016, SWAN and Equality Now joined the Clinic in submitting an updated report to the CAT Committee for the United States' next CAT review. 

The Clinic also engaged with many other U.S.-based advocates through coordinating a U.S. Human Rights Network CAT working group in preparation for the upcoming 53rd session of the Committee Against Torture reviewing the United States' implementation of the Convention Against Torture.  To complement its advocacy efforts, the Clinic prepared further advocacy materials as Clinic faculty, students and a survivor of military sexual assault traveled to Geneva to participate and directly engage with key stakeholders at the Committee Against Torture's U.S. review session in November 2014. (To read a press release on the submission to and participation in the UN Committee Against Torture proceedings, please click here).

After the review session, the Committee Against Torture released its Concluding Observations, which included a specific paragraph on "Sexual violence and rape in the United States military" noting its concern about the high prevalence of sexual violence and recommending the United States to increase its efforts to prevent and eradicate sexual violence in the military by taking effective measures to ensure prompt and impartial investigations, protection from any acts of retaliation or reprisals, and ensure equal access to disability compensation to veterans who are survivors of military sexual assault.

The Clinic continued its advocacy efforts around the United States' Universal Periodic Review session in May 2015 and again traveled to Geneva to engage in advocacy with diplomatic missions and other stakeholders in March 2015. (To learn more about the March delegation to Geneva, please click here.)

During the UN review in May 2015, two countries specifically raised the issue of sexual violence in the U.S. military, and recommended the U.S. to provide access to justice to survivors, prosecute offenders and provide redress to the survivors. Specifically, Denmark recommended that providing such access to justice included removing prosecutorial decision-making powers from the chain of command. For a further report on the United States' Universal Periodic Review, please click here

In January 2019, the Clinic submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council to inform the Committee as it prepared its List of Issues Prior to Reporting, a set of requests for information from the United States that marks the first step in the Committee’s review of U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  The Clinic presented on this report at an NGO briefing for UN Human Rights Committee members in Geneva in March 2019.

In April 2019, the Committee published its List of Issues Prior to Reporting, which includes a call for the U.S. to “detail measures adopted by the State Party to combat physical and sexual violence against women . . .  within the U.S. Military.” (For a further report on the Clinic’s advocacy before the UN Human Rights Committee, please click here.)

In September 2019, the Clinic submitted an updated report on military sexual violence to the UN Human Rights Council to inform its 2020 UPR of the United States.

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