As part of a multi-sectoral response to SGBV, access to justice/legal services is available to refugee survivors according to their needs and choices. However, prosecutions are often hampered by a lack of forensic evidence for rape and physical assault cases. Consequently, some cases end up being dismissed from courts of law. Police departments in Kibondo and Kasulu Districts have Forensic Units and are keen to provide support to refugee camps.
Gaps exists within camp contexts, however, including the lack of sexual assault/post-rape care (PRC) kits across all camp health facility locations, the need for PRC form standardization, inadequate documentation of police medical examination report forms (‘PF3’), and poor collection of forensic evidence specimens.
In police stations, there is a lack of forensic police investigators in all camp locations, and a lack of funds for processing forensic evidence from the scene to the government chemist. In general, coordination among police, protection and health actors is weak, coupled with a lack of equipment for collecting and analyzing forensic specimens at SGBV Support
In response to these realities, the current intervention aims to strengthen the chain management of forensic evidence collection by building the capacity of post-rape care health and police providers to collect, document, and use forensic evidence. The intervention was originally developed by LVCT Health, Kenya, and entails two main components: the assembling of a PRC kit, using material already available in health facilities (albeit in various locations within these contexts);
and multi-sectoral training for PRC health, police, and legal/justice providers on national PRC documentation forms that are meant to be filled out collaboratively by health facilities and police stations when responding to rape cases.
This documentation needs to be filled out accurately to facilitate the prosecution of rape cases in court. As the documentation forms (post-rape care forms, police medical examination forms) often contain sections for health providers and police to fill out, it is important for both kinds of providers to be familiar with the forms, with how to fill them out properly, with their
role in linking survivors to the police/health facility (depending on where the survivor presented first), and with working collaboratively to ensure completion of the forms in preparation for legal proceedings.
In Tanzanian refugee contexts, this intervention is being operationalized as follows:
- Locally-assembled PRC kits were put together by all health facilities.
- The PRC form was standardized for use in all camp locations
- Training on forensic evidence collection and accurate PF3 form completion was carried out with PRC health providers.
- The police were tasked with including a forensic police investigator in the review of a Memorandum of Understanding between UNHCR and the police; allocation of funds for forensic evidence processing in all locations; and procuring PRC kit items that were not already available within the health facilities.
- The Protection Unit was tasked with ensuring that relevant actors attend SGBV SWG monthly coordination meetings at camp level; contributing to procuring necessary equipment; and conducting awareness-raising sessions on forensic evidence practice.
- Six health providers have since been trained in forensic chain management by the healthcare focal point. Training topics included forensic evidence collection and storage, as well as PRC kit assembly procedures.
- A coordinated engagement among Ministry of Home Affairs, Police and Government Chemist in the regional analytical laboratory of Mwanza was conducted. Consensus was built on next steps for the intervention, including: plans for the government chemist to train health workers in forensic evidence chain management, and plans for the government to inspect health facilities for their preparedness for forensic chain management (collection tools, storage, etc.).
Since the commencement of the intervention, there has been an improvement in the filling of PF3 forms by police, although periodic refresher training sessions are recommended due to police staff transfers. PRC kits are now available in all health facilities in the participating camps, with periodic reporting and support from UNHCR and Health focal points. Improved coordination by the Protection SGBV Unit has caused improvements in referral mechanisms and pathways.
Improvements have also been observed in the response time to survivors in various service delivery points. Monthly meetings convened by UNHCR with key actors tasked with taking stock of the intervention (IRC, health partners, government protection officers, police) has facilitated solutions to some of the challenges.
International Rescue Committee
Medical Teams International
Médecins Sans Frontières
Ministry of Home Affairs
SGBV implementing partner
Tanzanian Red Cross
This article was first published on the UNHCR AND PARTNER PRACTICES OF COMMUNITY-BASED PROTECTION ACROSS SECTORS IN THE EAST AND HORN OF AFRICA AND THE GREAT LAKES REGION.