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Roles and responsibilities of prosecutors

  • Legislation should include pro-prosecution polices in cases of sexual assault.
  • Legislation should require prosecutor protocols that allow for prosecution of offenders in the absence of the survivor.
  • Legislation should require prosecutor training in the use of physical evidence, expert witnesses and other trial strategies to strengthen cases in which a victim is unavailable to testify or if issues such as delayed reporting, inconsistent reports, or recantation are present.
  • Legislation should require prosecutors to carefully consider all factors underlying a survivor’s hesitation or decision not to testify, including cultural and religious beliefs, before forcing a survivor to testify.
  • Legislation should prohibit prosecutors from prosecuting minor victims for alcohol use or any victim for use of recreational drugs in connection with the sexual assault. This will ease victim concerns in reporting sexual assault.
  • Legislation should require prosecutors to receive training on the nature and impact of sexual assault, harassment and stalking, factors that may affect a survivor’s willingness or ability to participate in a prosecution, and effective prosecution strategies and approaches that support victim safety. The lack of prosecutor training can contribute to low rates of reporting and prosecution. (See:  Africa for Women’s Rights: Ratify and Respect! Dossier of Claims (2010))
  • Legislation should require prosecutors to consider victim impact statements in all cases of sexual assault. Example: The Sexual Offenses Act of Kenya (2006) requires that victim impact statements be considered in sentencing. Art. 33(b).

Example: The Rome Statute and the ICC Rules of Procedure and Evidence were the first international criminal law provisions to permit extensive direct participation of victims in court proceedings. If not called to testify in a proceeding, victims may still participate through a designated representative. Article 68, Rome Statute and Rules 89-83 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

  • Legislation should require prosecutors to inform survivors of all aspects of the prosecution of the case, including details about specific times and dates for hearings.
  • Legislation should require prosecutors to inform survivors of available support and protection mechanisms.

Examples: The Sexual Offenses Act of Kenya (2006) §§ 31-36 and The Witness Protection (Amendment) Act of 2010 of Kenya, § 6.3 provide a number of protection measures.

  • Legislation should require prosecutors to inform survivors of opportunities to obtain restitution and compensation. See section on Restitution and compensation for survivors, below.
  • Legislation should require prosecutors who drop cases of sexual assault to explain to the survivor why the case was dropped. (See section on Rights of Survivors, below.)
  • When prosecutors decline to prosecute, legislation should require prosecutors to provide information to survivors about civil remedies such as protective orders.

Example: A 2009 Minnesota, USA law on victim notification states:

…c) Whenever a prosecutor notifies a victim of domestic assault, criminal sexual conduct, or harassment under this section, the prosecutor shall also inform the victim of the method and benefits of seeking an order for protection […]or a restraining order […] and that the victim may seek an order without paying a fee. §611A.0315 1(c).

 

  • Legislation should require prosecutors to avoid delays in completing the trial of the offender.

See: UN Handbook, 3.8.2 and 3.8.3; National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women and the Violence Against Women Office, The Toolkit to End Violence Against Women; and Prosecutor Protocols, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights.

Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence and Office of the Attorney General, State of New Hampshire, United States, A Model Protocol for Response to Adult Sexual Assault Cases (2012) provides a victim-centered and collaborative approach. Available in English.

For a detailed checklist to monitor the response of a prosecutorial system to victims of sexual assault, see the Center for Sex Offender Management, The Comprehensive Assessment Protocol, a Systemwide Review of Adult and Juvenile Sex Offender Management Strategies. The Protocol’s section on Pre Trial Management includes excellent questions to assess risk or lethality in determining whether to release offenders. Available in English.

See the Liberian Ministry of Justice, Sexual Assault and Prosecution Handbook. Available in English.

AEquitas, The Prosecutor’s Resource on Violence Against Women, a US-based website for prosecutors and allied professionals, published Long, Wilkinson, and Kays, 10 Strategies for Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse at the Hands of a Family Member. Available in English.