Andras Vamos-Goldman

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2015


This profile was prepared when Andras Vamos-Goldman was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.
The New Idea
Over the past two decades, the international community has become increasingly committed to hold accountable the perpetrators of mass atrocities (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity) and serious human rights violations. International law has also evolved and mechanisms to obtain justice for victims and their families have been created or strengthened. Despite these advances, those who commit these horrendous crimes are far too rarely held to account. Justice is only possible if genuine, thorough, professional and impartial investigations into these crimes are carried out as soon as possible when there are windows of security and political opportunity, and if information pertaining to the crimes is identified, collected and preserved properly.

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.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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