The office of Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, launched the Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes. It aims to strengthen the Office’s capacity to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of sexual and gender-based crimes falling within the Court’s jurisdiction in a systematic and comprehensive manner, and to enhance the integration of a gender perspective and expertise in all aspects of operations.
“It is my duty as ICC Prosecutor to challenge the culture of impunity that allows sexual and gender-based crimes against girls and women, boys and men, in conflict and peace-time, to persist,” said Prosecutor Bensouda.
The Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes also highlights the commitment to hold the perpetrators of such crimes accountable, and in the process, to send a strong message that the culture of impunity for such crimes will be met with the full force of the law.
The ICC works with local authorities, and the ICC interferes when local jurisdiction fails to investigate and prosecute such crimes. Bensouda’s Office is conducting preliminary examinations in Colombia.
Watch Bensouda discuss the work of the ICC:
Bensouda said: “We have seen that war crimes — rape and other — and sexual- and gender-based crimes — are used — is used as weapons of war. It is used as weapons to repress, to humiliate, to destroy the social fabric in society. And I think it is high time that we give it the attention that it deserves. And this is why I thought that it is crucially important that for my office we have a policy that provides transparency, that provides clarity on what we intend to do.”
A report from Amnesty International in Colombia titled, “This is what we demand, Justice!” details cases of sexual crimes against women and young girls in which security forces, paramilitaries and guerrilla groups “exploit girls as sexual slaves in order to seek vengeance.” They are often treated as “war trophies” who have to be silenced and punished. In many cases, sexual violence forces families to abandon their land and become internal refugees.
Currently, the ICC has charged seventeen individuals with sexual and gender-based crimes. They constitute about 70 percent of cases before the chambers of the ICC.
The ICC found former African warlord Thomas Lubanga guilty of using children as young as nine as bodyguards, sex slaves and fighters.
Besouda believes there is an overlap in both the conscription of minors and the prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes.
One of the challenges of sexual and gender-based crimes is the underreporting, or the non-reporting. The ICC is looking for new ways, for alternative forms of evidence to be able to bring forth to the judges; such as forensic or hospital reports, where they exist.
The ICC is also trying to see what are the best ways to approach people, or approach victims and be able to speak to them in a manner that will not expose them, in a manner that they will not suffer afterwards from stigmatization or re-traumatization.
Bensouda said, “ .. Because we all know that in most of societies once you are seen or known as a victim of — of rape, instead of being looked at as a victim you are probably blamed for being raped. You are stigmatized in society, you become an outcast. If you are married, sometimes you are divorced. Your husband would not want you anymore because you are a victim of rape.”