AUWCL Receives Prestigious Grant Award from Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation has awarded American University Washington College of Law’s War Crimes Research Office, Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, and Women and the Law Program a prestigious Bellagio Award for the convening entitled “Ending Impunity for Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Conflict or Mass Repression in Latin America.”

The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, through a combination of conferences and residency programs, supports the work of scholars, artists, thought leaders, policymakers, and practitioners who share in the Foundation’s mission to “promote the well-being of humanity around the world.” This is the third Bellagio Center award granted to AUWCL faculty. 

The AUWCL programs will use the award to bring together court personnel, prosecutors, and civil society activists committed to ending the widespread impunity for the sexual and gender-based crimes committed during periods of conflict and mass repression in Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina. Despite evidence of thousands of sexual and gender-based crimes committed in these conflicts, only a handful of cases have been successfully prosecuted. The Programs will work with these on-the-ground advocates to assess needs for training, collaboration, and resources across the region to improve access to justice for victims.

As Claudia Martin, co-director of the Academy notes, “in a world where sexual violence continues to be an instrument of war, identifying strategies to ensure that victims obtain redress serves the purposes of upholding justice and preventing the repetition of these crimes in the future.” Women and the Law Program Associate Director Daniela Kraiem adds that, “this award from the Rockefeller Foundation highlights the crucial role that AUWCL’s programs and students play in supporting the work of human rights activists and scholars from around the world. Further extending our work into the Latin American context builds AUWCL’s deep connections to the region.” 

The convening at Bellagio grows out of the expertise of the three AUWCL programs in the area of gender and international law. Since 2009, the War Crimes Research Office and the Women and the Law Program have collaborated on the Gender Jurisprudence and International Criminal Law Project to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes under international law.  With the assistance of dozens of AUWCL student researchers, the programs built, which houses a free online legal research tool focused on the treatment of gender issues by international courts, hybrid tribunals or select domestic courts applying international law.    

The programs are currently wrapping up a U.S. Department of State funded effort to improve access to justice for victims of sexual and gender-based violence in the conflict in Bosnia by training court personnel and advocates, as well as making Bosnian jurisprudence available online. Most recently, the War Crimes Research Office and Academy on Human Rights filed a joint amicus brief in the landmark Sepur Zarco case, brought against former members of the military accused of sexual slavery during the conflict in Guatemala in the 1980s.   



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