KAMPALA, Uganda – The Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court opened here yesterday. Bill Pace, Convenor of the non-governmental Coalition for an ICC, noted that the event was likely the largest gathering of international criminal law experts ever held.
Several of the speeches in the opening high-level plenary referenced how important it is that the ICC address sexual and gender-based violence.
For example, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recognized the significant contributions the ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, along with the Special Court for Sierra Leone, have made in prosecuting rape and other sexual violence crimes and he urged the ICC to deal with sexual violence crimes as a priority.
In the afternoon, the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice launched its newest publication, Advancing Gender Justice: A Call to Action. The Call to Action focuses, in part, on how the ICC can better achieve gender-sensitive justice. Its recommendations include:
► A serious and significant increase in state and voluntary contributions to the ICC Trust Fund for Victims, including to Trust Fund’s donor appeal for victims of sexual violence launched in 2009;
► Development by the ICC’s judges of gender-inclusive, victim-centered guidelines on reparations for victims before the Court, authorized in Article 75 of the Rome Statute;
► Stronger and more consistent jurisprudence from the ad hoc tribunals, special courts and the ICC on forced marriage, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization and sexual mutilation;
► The ICC should ensure that its mechanisms support the exercise of the right of victims to apply to the Court for formal recognition and subsequent participation in the legal proceedings; and
► When countries implement the Rome Statute into domestic law, they should do so in a manner that is fully inclusive of the gender provisions of the Rome Statute.
This Call to Action was issued following one consultation in 2008 in Kampala with 155 women’s rights and peace activists, primarily from conflict situations under investigation by the ICC, and another at the April 2010 Internattional Gender Justice Dialogue (prior IntLawGrrls posts here and here). In addition, Women's Initiatives undertook ongoing consultation with women through its extensive country-based programming. The group has a delegation in Kampala of 30 women's human rights and peace activists from three of the four ICC situation countries.
The conversation on gender issues will likely continue throughout the Review Conference, especially as a result of the Women’s Court event, which Women's Initiatives has organized for today, and of the stocktaking exercises, set for later this week, which will focus on the impact of the Rome Statute system on victims and affected communities, peace and justice, complementarity and cooperation.