International Conference Women's Court: Feminist Access to Justice

14 Jul 2019
Syria, Joumana Saif

In 2010, 7 members of the Initiative Board, from countries of the former Yugoslavia, created the Women’s Court.- a feminist approach to justice. A space where women could raise their voices and testify of the injustices they have experienced during the war and the peace time, in both private and public sphere. The first Women’s Court session in Europe was held in Sarajevo in May 2015 and gathered more than 500 peoples from around the world. This process carried by Women in Black and supported by several organisations represents an incentive to continue from a feminist perspective the creation of new models of justice.

In April 2019, the International Conference Women's court: Feminist access to justice was organised from the 12th to the 14th April 2019, in Radmilovac, Serbia. Women from Europe were there to evaluate the achievement of the Court and gain from the participation of Turkish and Syrian women to discuss how to move forward on the recognition of gender-based crimes.

The Conference highlighted the lacks of the Serbian judicial system, which impedes women to have justice. The main issues identified were the inefficiency of the work of the Prosecutor’s Office for War Crimes, the obstruction of the judiciary system and the impunity at the legal and political level. As well as the non-recognition of rape as a war crime in the Law on Civilian Victims of War, which counteracts the Hague Tribunal position.

Through the numerous events and publications of the Women’s Court, witnesses engaged in the process pointed out the importance of strengthening confidence of women as it encourages public talks, enhances awareness and contributes to the conviction of war crimes perpetrators. Moreover, the Conference addressed the concept of Feminist Ethics of Care and Responsibility, which includes the monitoring of war crimes trials, support of legal processes and procedures conducted by witnesses at the Women’s Court.

Over the years, women in Serbia started to testify in front of National Courts, initiate court processes and made great victories.  Sharing the good practices and knowledge gained since the beginning is one of the priorities of the Women’s Court.

Through this event, activists from Italy, Croatia, Serbia, and Turkey shared their experience of national justice system from a gender perspective. They raised the growing issue of Clerico-nationalism against women’s reproductive rights in Europe. Ms. Joumana Seif, lawyer and women rights activists, participated to this important event and was able to share the story of Syrian women: from the organization of feminist rebellions to the creation of networks inside and outside Syria. She also explained how sexual violence is used as a weapon and stressed the necessity of Transitional Justice in Syria.  

The International Conference was a great platform to exchange good practices and knowledge about Women’s Courts, both in the process of creation and continuation. EuroMed Feminist Initiative welcome this successful initiative and hope that transitional justice and ordinary judiciary systems will benefit from the feminist knowledge gathered.

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