Global Resources

International Protocol on the documentation and investigation of sexual violence in conflict

Publisher: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK
Publication Date: Jun 2014

In the first document of its kind, hundreds of experts have come together to compile their wisdom and experience into this international protocol outlining the basic standards of best practice for investigating and documenting sexual violence in areas of conflict as a crime under international law. Currently, perpetrators of sexual violence in areas of conflict operate in near impunity, with the overwhelming majority of victims never receiving justice, and facing considerable challenges to receiving medical, psychosocial, and economic support necessary to rebuild their lives. This lack of accountability greatly hinders reconciliation efforts, and until this barrier to peace is addressed conflict and instability can remain ingrained and intractable.

The protocol was developed through a series of consultations held in 2012, as part of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. Funded and edited by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, this non-binding protocol is aimed toward helping national and international justice and human rights practitioners to effectively document sexual violence as a war crime, crime against humanity, or, where it can be shown that the aim is to destroy in whole or in part a particular group, as a crime of genocide. By adhering to the protocol, these practitioners will be able to ensure that documentation forms reliable, robust, and effective evidence for future accountability efforts, while also aiding the victims of sexual violence to recover.

Part one of the Protocol provides definitions of sexual violence as an international crime, including the requirements for prosecution. Also outlined are the grave consequences to, and barriers faced by, victims of sexual violence. Following this, part two outlines what documentation looks like in practice, from research and planning, to safe implementation, and on to the minimum requirements necessary when dealing with evidence. The key principle of ‘do no harm’ is highlighted here, with suggestions of ways to mitigate and address the possible risks associated with such work.

Finally, the annexes to the Protocol contain further tools and information, including an Evidence Workbook setting out examples of what type of information is useful to collect to prove specific, contextual and linkage elements of sexual violence as an international crime. Additionally, the annexes include summaries and guidelines on interviewing, dealing with evidence, working within a multi-sectoral support model, and key types of referrals and medical documentation for evidentiary purposes. To find out more about the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, visit: