International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: Rape

Central African Republic: Muslims Held Captive and the Potential for ICC/National Intervention

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch reported that anti-balaka fighters in the CAR have taken at least 42 Muslim Peuhl herders captive. Most of the captives are women and young girls, whom HRW urges may sCARuffer from sexual violence if the UN peacekeepers and CAR government do not act immediately to get them out.

In early 2013, Muslim Seleka rebels took over power in the CAR in a campaign of mass civilian killings and destruction of homes. By mid-2013, groups self-proclaimed as the anti-balaka came together to fight the Seleka in a huge reprisal campaign in which they attacked Muslim civilians, among those Peuhl herders. The conflict has killed thousands of civilians while also displacing hundreds of others. This conflict is ongoing between anti-balaka, Seleka, and international forces via UN peacekeepers and French troops.

In December of last year, HRW reported that a group of Peuhl had been held captive in Pondo by the anti-balaka. Though some survivors have been released thanks to intervention by local authorities and UN peacekeepers, these survivors and other witnesses insist that other Peuhl are being held captive in other towns and villages in the country. Allegedly, 30 are currently held captive in Lambi, 11 are in Ngbaina, and 1 is in Betefio. Others have been reported to be held in Gadzi and Gaga. Many have been held for more than a year.

HRW insists that holding civilians in captivity, murdering children, and sexually enslaving women and young girls constitute serious war crimes. And while something certainly needs to be done to deal with these atrocities, it is unlikely that the bulk of this action will come from CAR itself. This ongoing conflict, compounded by a lack of resources and legal expertise, has essentially left CAR’s national justice system unable to handle such serious international crimes.

An international solution, however, may be in the works. In September, the CAR referred the conflict to the ICC, prompting the chief prosecutor to open a second investigation in the CAR for crimes committed since January 2002. Yet, this does not mean that resolving the conflict will be totally left up to the international sphere.

In what I believe to be important steps for CAR’s own national legal capacity-building, the National Transition Council, which is CAR’s interim parliament, has been discussing the possibility of creating a Special Criminal Court. This court would be within the national judicial system and would include both national and international judges and staff. Essentially, the court would act as a complement to the ICC and would try those responsible for serious crimes, with a specific focus on sexual violence and crimes against children.

The potential for this Special Criminal Court to deliver justice to perpetrators in the CAR in a way that is more connected to the locale is large in my opinion. Undoubtedly, it would have been very easy to admit that the national judiciary was in no condition to handle such grave international crimes, instead simply handing over the responsibility to the ICC to prosecute. Yet, in doing so there would have been a lost opportunity for national capacity building. What would CAR have gained from outsourcing justice to the ICC without making its own attempts at strengthening its judicial system? Undoubtedly, it is encouraging to see the CAR making strides to take responsibility and shoulder at least part of the responsibility for prosecutions. Not only does this have positive implications for the nation’s future capacity to handle prosecution of serious international crimes, but it also has the potential to more intimately involve the locals in the process. For having suffered so much in this conflict, the victims are owed at least more involvement in the process of bringing justice to their perpetrators. Additionally, the Special Criminal Court’s specific focus on sexual violence and violence against children is a strong step toward elevating the serious status of such crimes and ensuring the prosecution of their perpetrators.

This is not to say, however, that intervening will be without its challenges. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the fact that both international and national intervention is coming mid-conflict, which as we have seen may pose challenges for the enforcement of indictments and arrest warrants, gathering evidence, and general national stability. Yet, if intervention doesn’t happen and justice is forced to wait until peace comes around, many more lives may be lost and the conflict could go on for much much longer. Ultimately, we will have to wait to see how this trade off, if there is one, will play out.

ICC Upholds Acquittal of Former Congolese Rebel Leader

Mathieu Ngudjolo, former leader of the Congolese rebel group, Nationalist and Integrationist Front, was once again acquitted on Feb. 27, 2015. He was charged with commanding a militia of fighters who in 2003 destroyed the village of Bogoro (eastern Congo) and in the process raped and hacked to death roughly 200 people including children.
The prosecutors on the case felt that there were errors on the parts of the judge’s during the first trial and that they had been denied a fair trial because, in part, they were not permitted to cross examine witnesses with Ngudjolo. The decision was ultimately upheld because the ruling judge felt that the errors did not affect the outcome of the acquittal.
The Ngudjolo case was important because it was only the second case the ICC handled and the first acquittal.
More can be read about this here.

Rape as a War Crime

A British documentary revealed a disturbing account of the rape chambers of Gaddafi.

When rape is used as a weapon in war and peace, there is a thin line where violators cross from what would be recognized as torture to the ICC or classified as an “ordinary crime” handled by civil court.

With the photo archives that have been revealed in the “sex dungeon” cases and even the tortures in Syria, what kind of suit would have to be brought against a person if there is not enough evidence of torture? In situations of massacres and large scale violence, how are rape cases distinguished between crimes of war, crimes against humanity, and instruments of genocide?

Because of such personal accounts and humiliation that come with the reporting of a rape crime, it is most likely the case that a lot of rape events have not been confronted as war crimes until much later after it actually happened. If an offender identifies with a party opposed to that which the civilian victim belongs to or to which she/he owes allegiance, is the crime ultimately considered to be carried out in unison with the ultimate goals of a military campaign?

The timing of the offense perpetrated during a non-international armed conflict is a complicated one. How is it proven that an offense has been created by an armed conflict? Does the timing of conflict necessarily create the context of rape? I ask this because I’m sure not all rape cases during conflict times are carried out in consonance with the ultimate goals of a military campaign and against a protected person.The same applies to the case of an offense committed (e.g. murder) in breach of IHL, by a civilian against a combatant belonging to the opposing party to the conflict.

The ICC and Sexual Violence

I read a recently-posted article entitled Rape as a weapon of war: what the law can do, which discusses possible legal solutions for sexual violence in conflict. The following statements struck me:

1) “Today, there are international laws criminalizing rape and acts of sexual violence as acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Defendants have been charged with these crimes, and some have been convicted, although not yet at the International Criminal Court.”

2) “But after its establishment 10 years ago, the ICC’s first judgement was delivered only in March this year. It is abundantly clear the ICC has limited resources in addition to a very restrictive mandate to prosecute only the very few at the very top.”

3) “Such criticism overlooks the fact that the ICC was designed as a court of last resort; it can intervene only when a country is unwilling or unable to genuinely prosecute. Its greatest impact was always intended to be in encouraging prosecutions in local courts.”

Impunity perpetuates sexual violence as an acceptable, effective weapon of war. Without punishment, there’s no reason for this cycle of violence to end. But since it is within the ICC’s jurisdiction to “end impunity” with regards to genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, the ICC has the power to “better domestic prosecutions” (as stated in the article).

So then should we attribute the ICC’s absence, in the realm of sexual violence, to the fact that it was only recently established, and therefore lacks adequate resources to mandate further, domestic prosecutions? Or is the ICC simply not designed to combat such offenses?

When will we take sexual violence to court?

Soldiers on trial for Congo mass rape

Soldiers on trial for Congo mass rape

11 soldiers on trial on accounts of mass rape in the congo. They are being tried for the rape of atleast 35 women. According to BBC news, the soldiers decided to take revenge on the people of the community because a mob lynched a soldier. The UN took notice of this attack and immediately took action. The trial is in process. I think this is a noble step forward for the UN to step in and bring justice to these women. Usually you would not expect a crime of this number to be noticed by the UN.

South African rapist: ‘Forgive me’

I know that this is really old but it really fits with our material. A man in South Africa is asking the woman he has raped to forgive him for his actions. He goes on to tell a story of how he was virtually pressured into raping a girl and it was also seen as a kind of rite of passage when he was younger. Since then, he has found god, and joined a NGO. This has prompted him to eventually seek forgiveness from the woman that he has harmed. Interestingly, the NGO he works for also deals with the daily lives of women. He is also prepared for any jail time that he might face, showing that he has fully come to terms with what he has done.