BEIRUT: In a conflict-ridden world, marginalized communities that have been victims of conflict, and its repercussions, are the communities in need of access to protection and legal services most. These are also the communities that often have the most limited access to these tools.
Legal Action Worldwide is a Non-Governmental Organization that provides access to legal services focusing on conflict-affected and fragile countries across South Asia, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. Amongst the key issues that LAW focuses its efforts on, sexual and gender-based violence is at the core of LAW’s mission.
Antonia Mulvey, Founder and Executive Director of Legal Action Worldwide, lectured on international law and gender-based violence, addressing the complexities of navigating legal avenues in conflict, and post-conflict situations as part of the Master's course “Globalization and Middle East Transformation” under Professor Imad Salamey at the Lebanese American University of Beirut on Tuesday.
Mulvey, an influential international lawyer, with extensive experience in human rights, refugee, and criminal law, defined sexual and gender-based violence as: “any act that is perpetrated against a person's will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships."
The British lawyer with over twenty years of experience stated that gender-based sexual violence does not end with the cessation of conflict.
“When people want to put a timeline as what qualifies as post-conflict gender-based violence, I ask them ‘ would these people be experiencing these things had the conflict not occurred?’” Mulvey noted in her lecture.
National and regional mechanisms must be exhausted before turning to international mechanisms.
“You must exhaust, you must complete your options with a national court before you move outside of your national jurisdiction,” Mulvey stated.
The main international mechanisms being the International Criminal Court at an individual level, the International Court of Justice on a state level, and UN Mechanisms which serve as quasi-judicial bodies.
These can be difficult to navigate. The Republic of Lebanon, for example, does not have access to a regional court. In addition, Lebanese law states that International law trumps national law, but it often doesn’t play out that way in practice.
“The difficulty in human rights is that the national courts are unavailable, and or unwilling, to participate,” Mulvey stated.
If you or someone you know is a survivor needing access to legal services and falls under the mandate of Legal Action Worldwide, they can reach Legal Aid at their hotline 81315001.
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