Document - The International Criminal Court: Fact Sheet 7 - Ensuring justice for women
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The International Criminal
Fact sheet 7
Ensuring justice for
"The Rome Statute's gender
provisions are an encouraging example of how the development of the
international women's rights movement is positively impacting
international human rights and humanitarian law despite the strong
influence of conservative political forces … While much remains to
be done, the progress made since 1994 is extraordinary."
United Nations Special
Rapporteur on violence against women, Radhika
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) is progressive in its incorporation of 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 Court (ICC). It
also serves as a model of international best practice for national
legal systems to follow.
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.
As a result of campaigning by
organizations working on behalf of the rights of women from around
the world, the Rome Statute is the first international treaty to
expressly recognize a broad spectrum of sexual and gender-based
violence as some of the gravest crimes under international
What crimes against humanity
are of particular concern to women?
The Rome Statute recognizes
rape, sexual slavery, trafficking, enforced prostitution, forced
pregnancy, enforced sterilization and any other form of sexual
violence of comparable gravity as crimes against
This is the first time that
sexual slavery and trafficking have been expressly recognized as
crimes against humanity in an international treaty.
In addition, the Statute
states that persecution against any identifiable group or
collectivity on the grounds of gender, if committed in connection
with any other crime within the jurisdiction of the ICC, is a crime
What war crimes in the
Statute are of particular concern to women?
The Statute 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 serious violation of
common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions can be prosecuted as war
crimes, if they occur during either international or internal armed
conflict (see Fact Sheet 5). The definitions of these war crimes
are the same as those of the corresponding crimes against
How are crimes of sexual
Rape and other forms of
sexual violence have been defined in the ICC Elements of Crimes to
focus on the coercive acts of the perpetrator, including threats
and psychological oppression, rather than focusing on physical
force alone. Instead of defining rape solely in terms of forced
vaginal penetration with a penis, the definition of rape is
gender-neutral (acknowledging that men and boys can also be raped)
and refers generally to the invasion of the victim’s body,
including rape with objects and forced oral sex.
What role will women play in
The Prosecutor and the
Registrar are required in the employment of staff to "ensure the
highest standards of efficiency, competency and integrity" and to
have regard to 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. Investigators will need to have experience and
effective training in collecting evidence of violence against women
in a sensitive and effective manner.
Will there be women serving
States parties are required
to take into account the need for a fair representation of female
and male judges and the need to include judges with legal expertise
on specific issues, including violence against women. Of the first
eighteen judges elected to the ICC in 2002, seven were women. This
is by far the highest proportion of women judges in any
international court or tribunal.
Will there be a special
office or official in the ICC to address the needs of
The Registrar has established
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 for victims 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. The Statute requires the Prosecutor to
appoint an adviser on sexual and gender 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, the ICC must
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. Such measures may not be prejudicial to or inconsistent
with the rights of the accused and a fair and impartial
How will women victims and
witnesses be protected?
As an exception to the
principle of public hearings, 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.
How will the Court’s
procedural and evidentiary rules assist women victims and
The Rome Statute tackles some
of the most common procedural and evidentiary rules that have
traditionally undermined women’s claims of abuse and made trials
traumatic experiences for the victims involved. For example,
silence or a lack of resistance by the victim during a crime of
sexual violence cannot be used to imply that she consented to the
act. Evidence of the victim’s prior or subsequent sexual conduct is
inadmissible in most cases. There is also no requirement that the
victim’s testimony be corroborated by another source.
A publication of the
International Justice Project