Attorneys-General resolve to support prosecutions of sexual violence

  • Christopher Finlayson

The Attorneys-General of Canada, Australia, the United States, New Zealand and England and Wales resolved to work together more closely to fight sexual violence against women and children at yesterday’s Quintet meeting of Attorneys-General in Auckland.

The Attorneys-General also affirmed the declaration made by G8 Foreign Ministers that rape and other forms of serious sexual violence in international armed conflict are war crimes and also constitute grave breaches as defined in the Geneva Conventions and their first Protocol.

The special topic for discussion at the Quintet, an annual meeting of Attorneys-General to share experience in dealing with complex and cross-border legal issues, was developments and best practice with respect to prosecuting crimes of sexual violence against women and children.

The Attorneys-General recognised the seriousness and prevalence of crimes of sexual violence against women and children, and noted the challenges associated with prosecuting crimes of sexual violence against women and children and the importance of a coordinated and multifaceted approach, from investigation through to prosecution.

Recognising the evolving challenges in the area, the Quintet agreed to share best practices, research and evaluation of legislation, support programmes for complainants and witnesses; and prevention measures.

They also recognised the benefits of sharing information on approaches to address historic claims of sexual assault, and the practical advantages of comparing how courts have dealt with fair trial rights and efforts to support complainants and witnesses giving testimony in sexual cases.

The Attorneys-General in particular agreed to share information on the above topics as it relates to the impact of sexual violence on indigenous and immigrant communities.

Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom are members of the G8, which made the perpetration of sexual violence against women in wartime a central issue within the G8. Australia and New Zealand are not members.

The Quintet also discussed a range of other topics including:

  • Strengthening cooperation in civil and commercial matters,
  • Support for victims of crime;
  • Proceeds of crime;
  • Technology advancements in the courts, and how prosecutors are working with new technology;
  • Judicial appointments;
  • Gun violence in Quintet countries.

The attendees were:

  • Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP – Attorney-General, England and Wales
  • Hon Rob Nicholson PC QC MP – Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Canada
  • Hon Eric H. Holder, Jr – Attorney-General, United States of America
  • Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP – Attorney-General, Australia
  • Hon Christopher Finlayson QC MP – Attorney-General, New Zealand