Skip to main content

Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and International Criminal Justice: Challenges and Opportunities in the Fight against Impunity

By Susann Aboueldahab & Kai Ambos

The past few decades brought an increased global attention and commitment to ensure accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. Accordingly, both at the level of international criminal law and international policy there is marked progress to hold responsible individuals to account. Backed by the United Nations, the ad-hoc Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the International Criminal Court, as well as the two hybrid Tribunals in Cambodia and Sierra Leone were instrumental in advancing judicial practice related to sexual violence in conflict. Despite this positive development, the remaining high levels of impunity in many conflict-affected settings raise questions as to possible causes. This contribution explores some of the problems in ensuring accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. It does so by examining the existing legal framework and the related practice of international and domestic criminal tribunals. We argue that while the normative framework has significantly improved, shortcomings remain especially at the level of investigation and prosecution and also when it comes to the legal interpretation and application of the relevant norms. We conclude by pointing to possible venues for improvement in closing accountability gaps and, at the same time, shed light on the potential that more holistic, restorative approaches to criminal justice offer.

Full article