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Special policies, procedures, and protocols

  • Documenting special procedures for prosecutors and courts to follow in cases of violence against women is an important step in implementation of laws. Policy documents, protocols, and procedures should be developed in consultation with women’s groups and should maintain a focus on safety of victims and holding perpetrators accountable. Often these efforts take the form of written prosecutorial policies, implementation plans, or bench guides for judges. The absence of clear policies and procedures can lead to confusion and lack of protection for women. For instance, a project designed to build capacity in the EU to enforce laws against FGM conducted workshops with professionals from several countries. Workshop participants identified a lack of available protocols and procedures for risk assessment and reporting as a significant barrier to implementation of laws. See: Leye Els et al., Striking the right balance between prosecution and prevention of FGM in Europe – A review of legislation (2010).
  • In Kenya, after the passage of the Sexual Offences Act, the Attorney General’s office and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) created a reference manual for prosecutors and other sectors to disseminate best practices for implementation. See: Anne Kithaka, Enforcement of the Sexual Offences Act in Kenya (2008).
  • In the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service has developed a Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Domestic Violence. The policy addresses numerous issues including the role of the prosecutor, sufficiency of the evidence, bail, charging, plea bargaining, avoiding delay, support and safety for victims, civil proceedings, children, keeping victims informed, sentencing, and community engagement.
  • In Sweden, the government promulgated a ‘Manual for investigations concerning men’s violence against women’ as well as a specific ‘Manual for investigating violence and oppression in the name of honour,’ both designed for prosecutors. The government noted that the manuals were designed “to improve preliminary investigations and also to ensure professional and efficient support to victims from the first point of contact with law enforcement and through the entire legal proceedings.” See: Sweden, UN Secretary-General’s database on violence against women.
  • In the post-conflict environment, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda created a Best Practice Manual for the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Violence Crimes in Situations of Armed Conflict which gives specific information to prosecutors and staff in the prosecutor’s office on how to handle sexual violence cases so as to keep victims safe and end impunity for sexual violence.

Bench Guides
Bench guides for judges also are a helpful means of highlighting provisions in new laws and assisting judges in correctly applying and implementing the law. In the US state of Minnesota, after the death of two women and a police officer as a result of domestic violence, the state’s highest court approved the distribution of a bench guide for judges handling domestic violence cases. The Domestic Violence Risk Assessment Bench Guide provides judges with simple questions and instructions to guide them through a process of assessing risks to women’s safety in domestic violence cases.

CASE STUDY – Albania

After a new gender-equitable Family Code entered into force in Albania local stakeholders partnered with USAID to develop practical explanatory publications to help implement the new code. Under the leadership of the Magistrates’ School, a 120-page Family Law Benchbook was developed. The benchbook first outlines the specifics of the law and its interconnection with existing law, then presents detailed information about implementing the law effectively, and ends with specific forms and detailed procedures. The benchbook is designed to help Albanian judges to effectively implement Albania’s Family Code. A specific Albanian Judicial Benchbook on Protection Orders in domestic violence cases was also developed. The protection orders benchbook covers the following areas:

  • What are Domestic Violence Crimes
  • What Kind of Family Relations Qualify Under the Law
  • Is There More Than One Type of Protection Order
  • Who Can Ask for a Protection Order
  • What Types of Orders Can be Made
  • What Should be in the Petition
  • Where is the Petition Filed
  • How Soon is the Hearing
  • What Evidence Can be Taken at the Hearing
  • Who Can Testify at the Hearing
  • When Should the Court Grant the Petition
  • What Language Must be in the Decision
  • Is there an Appeal, Amendment, or Termination Procedure
  • Once the Order is Issued, Who is Notified
  • Who has to Implement the Order
  • What Happens if the Protection Order is Violated
  • The Special Role of the Courts in Ending Domestic Violence

(See: USAID, Annual Report on Good Practices, Lessons Learned, and Success Stories, 8-9 (2006))

Lawyers Representing Victims
Much training and information dissemination focuses on judges and prosecutors, but the lawyers who represent victims of violence in court should not be forgotten in the process of implementing laws on violence against women. Lawyers representing women victims of violence need training and information on:

  • Dynamics of violence against women;
  • Specialized interviewing techniques;
  • Safety planning for their client;
  • How to connect their client to services;
  • Domestic and international laws on violence against women;
  • Child custody; and
  • Evidentiary issues.

The American Bar Association has developed guides for attorneys who represent victims of violence, as have some states in the United States. The American Bar Association guides include Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking in Civil Protection Order Cases as well as an online tool Comprehensive Issue Spotting: A Tool for Civil Attorneys Representing Victims of Domestic & Dating Violence, Sexual Assault & Stalking. The US state of New York also has published a guide for lawyers specifically dealing with domestic violence cases, entitled Lawyer’s Manual on Domestic Violence.

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