With Justice Rapid Response (JRR), Andras is strengthening the capacity of the international community to investigate the world’s worst crimes and find the perpetrators. Countries emerging from conflict are often ill-equipped to conduct such investigations on their own, and international institutions often face challenges in rapidly deploying professionals with the expertise to investigate these types of crimes. Since 2009, JRR is filling this gap by bringing together governments, regional and international organizations, civil society and the private sector to recruit and train experts, certifying them to a roster, and making them available for rapid deployment to assist with investigations.
Currently JRR has over 100 participating states, institutions and organizations. Through 32 training courses, Jrr created a roster of 560+ experts; of 60 professional categories; from 104 countries, with over 40% from the global South and over 50% women. JRR has received 200 requests for expertise since 2009, and has supported 86 missions, 55 of them in the last two years. in 2015, the number of requests for JRR’s services grew by 100%. This confirms the relevance of JRR’s mandate and the broad recognition that sending “whomever, whenever” to investigate mass atrocities is undermining the effectiveness and credibility of international justice and human rights. JRR’s mission is to replace “whomever, whenever” with the right expert at the right place at the right time.
Andras is a child of Holocaust survivors. He studied law after which he joined the Canadian diplomatic service. He has been involved in international justice for two decades. Andras was the first Chair of the Sierra Leone Special Court’s Management Committee and helped set up the international Criminal Court as an institution. He has been involved with JRR since its inception.
Countries emerging from conflict are often ill-equipped to conduct such investigations on their own. International institutions mandated with addressing mass atrocity crimes often face challenges in identifying, mobilizing and rapidly deploying professionals with the knowledge, skills and expertise to investigate these types of crimes, including in interviewing victims and witnesses without detriment to their safety and dignity.
The idea behind creating my organization, Justice Rapid Response (JRR), was to provide a tool to fill this gap. In operation since 2009, JRR is a facility that brings together governments, international organizations and civil society to recruit human rights and criminal justice experts from around the world, train these experts to work under international law and conflict-affected situations, certifies them to a roster, and makes them available for rapid deployment to assist with investigations of international crimes. In this way, JRR helps ensure the genuineness and credibility of the accountability process, which is essential to the delivery of justice.
No comparable mechanism exists. Without JRR, States and institutions would have to rely mainly on databases of consultants that are not appropriately trained. JRR differs from existing practice in a number of ways, including:’
1) Using a multilateral multi-stakeholder model that is agile, flexible and effective. With over 70 States and 30 international organizations and civil society organizations engaging in its activities, JRR benefits from the combination of agility and flexibility of civil society; the influence of States; and the global reach of international institutions.
2) Carefully selecting professionals with relevant backgrounds and providing them with specialized international crimes investigation training. The rigour of the vetting process used to select, train and certify experts to the roster ensures its quality. Over 60 professional categories are included on JRR’s roster, including prosecutors, legal advisors, witness protection specialists, military advisors, forensic doctors, sexual and gender-based violence investigations, gender advisors, and police officers.
3) Diversity – The 425 experts currently on JRR’s roster come from all corners of the world. Over 85 nationalities are represented, and over 60 languages. Forty percent of the experts are from a global South country, and over half are women. Such diversity is both unique and essential to being able to provide experts who possess the expertise, investigative skills, cultural awareness, language skills and intercultural relations competencies needed to effectively assist or lead an investigation in conflict situations, which includes interviewing victims and witnesses with sensitivity and without causing further harm. For example, a French-speaking female African SGBV expert is likely best suited for an investigation into mass rapes in a place like Guinea, particularly if most victims are female and where victims of SGBV may be reluctant to speak to investigators, due to cultural taboos, fear or reprisals or rejection by their family.
4) Making expertise available quickly, when there are windows of opportunity, is key to successful investigations. JRR relies mainly on active duty professionals whose training and certification to the roster is based, in part, on the prior knowledge and willingness of their employers to make them available for short-term deployments when requested by JRR to assist with an investigation or inquiry. This relationship with employers allows JRR to achieve a higher “dispatch” rate (approx. 70%) than conventional rosters. Through the training and rostering of experts who are selected to ensure the availability of a broad range of knowledge, skills, expertise and competencies, JRR is “front-loading” work that traditionally was not being done until a specific problem or need had been identified. This is the only way to respond rapidly and avoid missing the windows of opportunity that exist to investigate mass atrocities.