''All too often, conflict
happens in societies that can least afford it, takes its toll on
those who least deserve it, and hits hardest those least equipped
to defend themselves. Civilians have become the main targets of
warfare. From rape and displacement to the denial of the right to
food and medicines, women bear more than their fair share of the
Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace, 6
March 2000, Press Release, SG/SM/7325, WOM/1190
Over half a century after the
adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
discrimination and violence against women continues to be an
everyday reality worldwide. The vulnerability of women to human
rights violations is compounded in situations of armed conflict.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Statute) has
incorporated a gender perspective to ensure that women who are
victims of the gravest crimes under international law have access
to justice and that women play a role in the International Criminal
What are the crimes against
women which the ICC can try?
The Statute gives the ICC
jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Although both men and women can be the victims of most of these
crimes, some of them, such as enforced pregnancy, can be committed
only against women. Others, such as rape and sexual assault are
committed disproportionately against women.
Can attacks on women amount
Violence against women can be
used as a means to commit genocide. Although women are not one of
the four groups expressly protected by the 1948 Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide
Convention), certain types of attacks against women in one of the
four protected groups (national, ethnical, racial and religious)
with the intention to destroy the group, in whole or in part, as
such, can constitute genocide.
In the 1998
landmarkAkayesujudgment, a Trial Chamber
of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda held that when
rape was used as a method to destroy a protected group by causing
serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group, it
constituted an act of genocide. In addition, it explained that rape
also can be used as a way to prevent births within a group. For
example, in societies where ethnicity is determined by the identity
of the father, raping a victim to make her pregnant can prevent the
victim from giving birth to a baby within her own
What crimes against humanity
are of particular concern to women?
Article 7 (1) (g) recognizes
rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy,
enforced sterilization and any other form of sexual violence of
comparable gravity as crimes against humanity. It also expressly
recognizes that the crime of enslavement includes trafficking of
women. In addition, Article 7 (1) (h) states that persecution
against any identifiable group or collectivity, on gender grounds,
among others, if committed in connection with any other crime
within the jurisdiction of the ICC, is a crime against
These crimes must have been
committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed
against a civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a
state or organizational policy to commit such attack. An ''attack''
has a special meaning in the Statute which includes other measures
besides a military attack and can include legislation (see Fact
Are there war crimes in the
Statute of particular concern to women?
Article 8 provides that
individual acts of rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution,
forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization and any other form of
sexual violence constituting a grave breach or violation of common
Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 can be prosecuted as
war crimes, if they occur during international or internal armed
conflict (see Fact Sheet 5). The definitions of these war crimes
are essentially the same as those of the analogous crimes against
humanity of sexual violence.
What role will women play in
The Prosecutor and the
Registrar are required by Article 44 (2) in the employment of staff
to ''ensure the highest standards of efficiency, competency and
integrity'' and to have regard to the criteria for the selection of
judges, which include the need for a fair representation of men and
women and for expertise in specific issues, including violence
against women. This requirement is particularly important in the
case of the Prosecutor, who has the responsibility for the
appointment of investigators, who will need to have experience in
collecting evidence of violence against women in a sensitive and
Will there be women serving
States parties are required
by Article 36 (8) (a) in the selection of judges to take into
account the need within the membership of the court for a fair
representation of female and male judges and by Article 36 (8) (b)
of the need to include judges with legal expertise on specific
issues, including violence against women.
Will there be a special
office in the ICC to address the needs of women?
Article 43 (6) requires the
Registrar to establish a Victims and Witnesses Unit in the Registry
to advise the Prosecutor and the ICC. In particular, such advice
includes appropriate protective measures, security arrangements,
counselling and assistance to provide to victims - many of whom
will be women - who appear before the ICC, witnesses and others who
are at risk because of witness testimony. The staff of the Unit
must have expertise in trauma, including trauma related to crimes
of sexual violence.
Does the ICC have an
obligation to protect women victims and witnesses?
One of the problems in
prosecuting persons accused of these grave crimes against women is
that some women who have suffered such violence are reluctant to
come forward to testify. As a result, Article 68 (1) requires that
the ICC take appropriate measures to protect the safety, physical
and psychological well-being, dignity and privacy of victims and
witnesses, in particular where the crimes involve sexual or gender
violence. In doing so, it must have regard to all relevant factors,
including age, gender, health and the nature of the crime,
including whether it was one of sexual or gender violence. Such
measures may not be prejudicial to or inconsistent with the rights
of the accused and a fair and impartial trial.
How will women victims and
witnesses be protected?
As an exception to the
principle of public hearings, Article 68 (2) provides that the
Pre-Trial, Trial or Appeals Chambers may, to protect victims and
witnesses or an accused, conduct any part of the
camera(closed to the press and
public) or allow the presentation of evidence by electronic or
other special means. Such measures shall be implemented, in
particular, in the case of a victim of sexual violence, having
regard to all the circumstances, particularly the views of the
victim or witness.
In addition, Article 21(3)
incorporates the fundamental principle that the interpretation and
application of the Statute, Elements of Crimes, Rules of Procedure
and Evidence and relevant law ''must be consistent with
internationally recognised human rights, and be without any adverse
distinction on such grounds as gender''.
A Publication of the
International Justice Project