Publication details

Contribution of the International Criminal Court to the Prosecution of Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes: between Promise and Practice



Year of publication 2019
Type Chapter of a book
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Law

Description Sexual and gender-based violence has been used as a tool of armed conflict for thousands of years as a way to ‘shame, terrorise, and humiliate the enemy.’ However, it was not until the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in the 1990s that sexual and gender-based crimes (SGBC) were prosecuted in the international arena. The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) also contributed its piece. This paper will focus on the developments in investigating and prosecuting SGBC at the International Criminal Court (ICC), in conjunction with assessing the normative and substantive impact of the previous international tribunals on the ICC. First, a brief discussion will be had on the expansion of SGBC from the previous tribunals to the Rome Statute. Second, based on an examination of the ICC’s efforts to prosecute SGBC, the paper will argue that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC under its first Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, proved to be deeply inconsistent and failed to prosecute certain individuals for their commission of extensive SGBC. As a result, the ICC has so far produced a rather poor record in terms of SGBC prosecution. Yet, the paper will show that more recently, there have also been some positive developments and attempts to tackle the complexities of SGBC, starting with the Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender Based Crimes (Policy Paper) released in 2014 by the OTP under the Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda; followed by the condemnation of SGBC in the Bemba case in 2016 or the confirmation of SGBC charges, namely war crimes of rape and sexual slavery of child soldiers, in the Ntaganda case in 2017. The valuable lessons, which can be drawn from the examination of the ICC’s record in relation to SGBC, are equally applicable to the investigation and prosecution of other crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction.
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