resized270 gender violenceCommentaries provide expert analysis of cases and/or issues critical to understanding the development of international law with respect to sexual and gender-based violence. The commentaries may signal to users important institutional contexts in which the case was decided, the effect the case has (or has not had) on subsequent cases, or other noteworthy aspects of the case. They may also frame issues in the context of broader feminist discussions within the field of international criminal law more generally.

Sex and International Tribunals: The Erasure of Gender from the War Narrative print email

The following is an excerpt from the above-titled book by Cheseche Salome Mibenge, who visited the Washington College of Law on November 11th at an event co-sponsored by the War Crimes Research Office, The American Red Cross and The Women in International Law Interest Group of the American Society of International Law. Ms. Mibenge shared reflections on the process of writing this book as well as insights from her research into how international tribunals approach issues of gender and personal narratives of her visits to and work with victims of rape and sexual violence. A webcast of the event is available here.


All Women Are Slaves
Insiders and Outsiders to Gender and Violence


In February 2007, I conducted an interview with Lars Sven, a development worker in Sierra Leone. In the course of the interview, he explained that he was not at all surprised by the cruelty women and girls suffered in war because Sierra Leonean women were no more than slaves in peacetime too. According to Lars, "It's the same in war and peace; these little girls are sold into marriage by their parents; they are slaves in marriage. They are no more than slaves to their husbands." In January 2009, I shared Lars's observation with Papa, a Sierra Leonean colleague in the United States. Papa responded that actually he was not at all surprised by Lars's comments because "that's what white people think about us [Africans]." I countered: "I don't know if that's fair. This man has lived and worked in Sierra Leone for many years. His wife is Sierra Leonean. He loves the country." Papa replied, "Those are the worst kind. They tell lies about our culture and tradition, and we applaud them. He doesn't know a thing about Sierra Leone or Sierra Leonean women or the way we marry. And neither does his wife."

Opportunities and Challenges: Preparing for Accountability in Syria print email

by Blake Peterson
The following is based on remarks delivered at an event at American University entitled "Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Post Arab Spring: Syria's Challenges to Protection and Accountability."


Over the past two decades, the work of international tribunals has made strides in bringing conflict-related sexual violence crimes out of the shadows and into the sphere of justice. Given the nature and sensitivity of such crimes, however, it remains difficult to ensure that these violations receive sustained attention to ensure perpetrators are held to account. In Syria, innovations in technology and evidence gathering, from citizen journalism to online tools, have democratized the environment for reporting on all forms of abuses and violations but they also pose new dilemmas for ensuring that perpetrators of the world's most heinous crimes face justice.


Given Syrians' remarkable proclivity for innovation throughout their revolution, it is no surprise that technological creativity is an ascendant feature of their journalism and atrocity documentation efforts. As a result, the technology revolution that spurred Syria's emergence as a unique information-rich environment has yielded thousands of gigabytes of documented violence and destruction. Indeed, the Syrian crisis may be the best-documented contemporary conflict. But does the staggering volume of digital documentation offer any evidentiary value?

Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence by the International Criminal Court: Mandate, Good Policy or Both? print email

susana photo2The following remarks were presented by Susana SáCouto, Director of the War Crimes Research Office, on February 1, 2012, at a conference hosted by the the War Crimes Research Office and the Women and International Law Program at American University entitled "Addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings: National and International Strategies."




I. Introduction

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established to end impunity for serious international crimes around the world.[1] Yet the Court’s broad mandate, jurisdiction over an increasing number of territories – there are now 120 States Parties to the Rome Statute that established the Court[2] – and limited resources[3] means that the Court must be selective in the situations it chooses to investigate and the cases it chooses to prosecute. Since the Rome Statute came into force more than a decade ago, the Court has formally initiated investigations in seven different situations,[4] commenced fourteen cases against twenty-five accused and confirmed charges in six cases against ten accused.[5] Gender-based crimes have been investigated in six of the seven situations now before the Court, namely: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), Darfur, Kenya and the Ivory Coast.[6] In addition, gender-based charges have been brought in eight of the fourteen cases currently before the Court.[7] In light of the historic failure to prosecute acts of sexual and gender-based violence committed in the context of conflict, mass violence or repression until relatively recently,[8] these statistics appear to indicate significant progress in the effort to seek accountability for such crimes.

The DRC Rape Crisis: Perception, Misperception, & Unintended Consequences print email

The following remarks were presented by Laura Seay on February 1, 2012, at a conference hosted by the the War Crimes Research Office and the Women and International Law Program at American University entitled "Addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings: National and International Strategies."


Today I want to discuss the question of legal responses to sexual and gender-based violence in the Congolese context, with a particular focus on the latest research on the crisis and what it tells us about who is committing these crimes, who the victims are, and what needs to be done to address the problem. In doing so, I will first discuss the latest research on the rape crisis in the Congo, then problematize some of what we think we know about it. I will close by raising challenges for our response to the crisis.

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