In a historic moment, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda last month launched the ICC’s Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes, the first-ever such document for an international court or tribunal.
Recognizing that sexual and gender-based crimes are among the most serious under the Rome Statute (the Statute is the first international treaty to identify crimes against women as crimes against humanity, war crimes and, in some instances, genocide), one of the key priorities of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of has been the enhancement of the investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes.
In order to achieve this challenging goal, the OTP appointed a special gender advisor, Brigid Inder, and drafted the comprehensive policy.
“The message to perpetrators and would-be perpetrators must be clear: sexual violence and gender-based crimes in conflict will neither be tolerated nor ignored at the ICC. We will spare no effort to bring accountability for these crimes and in so doing, contribute to deterring the commission of such heinous crimes in the future. As a matter of policy, the Office will systematically include relevant charges in its cases on the basis of evidence of criminality.”
The prosecutor used the occasion of the June Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict to promote the Policy Paper and affirm the OTP’s commitment ensure a gender-based perspective is applied to all ICC investigations.
The Policy Paper provides procedural guidelines for investigating and prosecuting sexual and gender-based crimes. It also aims to promote transparency and predictability in the prosecution of such crimes under the Rome Statute framework.
In addition, the Policy Paper aims to enhance the victims’ access to justice by ensuring the effective investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes.
The main objectives of the Policy Paper are to:
- Affirm the commitment of the Office to paying particular attention to sexual and gender-based crimes in line with statutory provisions;
- Guide the implementation and utilization of the provisions of the Statute and the Rules of Evidence and Procedure so as to ensure the effective investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes from preliminary examination through to appeal;
- Provide clarity and direction on issues pertaining to sexual and gender-based crimes in all aspects of operations;
- Contribute to advancing a culture of best practices in relation to the investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes; and
- Contribute, through its implementation, to the on-going development of international jurisprudence regarding sexual and gender-based crimes.
The Policy Paper was created following internal consultations, including a review of the current system of prosecution. States parties, international, national and regional organizations, civil society, academics and victim/survivor advocacy groups were also consulted. Many Coalition members submitted recommendations.
“Each of us has a role to play. It is hoped that the Policy will also serve as a guide to national authorities in the exercise of their primary jurisdiction to hold perpetrators accountable for these crimes. United in our efforts, we can end the silence that has surrounded sexual and gender-based crimes for far too long and give victims the ultimate tool in combating such crimes: a voice backed by the force of the law.”
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