Keynote Address: Mr Micheál Martin, T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs

Mr Micheál Martin opened the Conference by highlighting recent International and national developments in relation to sexual violence. He began by welcoming the important development at the heart of the conference – that sexual violence was now recognised as a human rights violation. Indeed he emphasised that Ireland supported the fact that sexual violence was now being prosecuted as a crime against humanity and a war crime.
Mr Martin informed the conference that Ireland has recently taken over as chair of the Human Security Network (a group of like-minded countries from all regions of the world that, at the level of Foreign Ministers, maintains dialogue on questions pertaining to human security); the conference is the first event of Ireland’s chair of the network. The Minister stressed that Ireland was committed to making Gender Based Violence a focus of its time as Chair of the Network in order to ensure that the eyes of the International Community remained focussed on the issue.
Domestically, Mr Martin noted that gender based violence was also a high priority for the government. He informed the Conference of recent developments nationally which included the establishment in 2007 of Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence. The initiative created a dedicated office at Government level which has the key responsibility to ensure the delivery of a co-ordinated “whole of Government” response to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Cosc will launch the first phase of consultation on a National strategic Action Plan on Domestic and Sexual Violence in autumn 2008. Legislation reforming the whole area of sexual offences to ensure a workable, updated and simpler approach to the area would also be introduced in the future.
The Minister noted that conference was very relevant to the work of the government both internationally and nationally. He welcomed delegates and speakers and the contribution they would make to the overall debates that were necessary to ensure ongoing reform to the law on Sexual Violence at all levels.

Reforming Laws on Sexual Violence: International Perspectives

The Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University College of Cork is hosting the third Annual Criminal Law Conference with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is the first event of Ireland’s chair of the Human Security Network 2008-2009.
The aims of this international conference are to assess international criminal law developments on crimes of secual violence, to inform law and policy debates to strengthen responses to sexual violence and to promote awareness of sexual violence as a human rights violation. The conference programme comprises International and Irish speakers. Academics and practitioners from all over the world (including Australia, Canada, the US, Sudan, Timor-Leste and Europe) as well as from Ireland will present on and discuss trends in the prosecution of sexual violence with particular focus on International law developments.
The sessions will be summarised and posted on the blog.