Sexual and gender-based crimes are difficult to prosecute and secure convictions for under any conditions. When they are committed as acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes — and are dealt with as part of the international justice system — the situation is even more fraught and complicated. However, the past year has seen positive steps taken toward improving the documentation, investigation, and prosecution of such crimes.
When individual countries lack the capacity to do so, the International Criminal Court (ICC).1 investigates and prosecutes sexual and gender-based crimes within the context of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In fact, six of the eight situations currently under investigation at the Court include charges for gender-based crimes. However, there have yet to be any convictions on sexual or gender-based charges (in fact, there has only been one conviction to date on any charges whatsoever).2
The Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, has previously recognized the importance of appropriately addressing sexual and gender-based crimes — and the challenges involved in the effective investigation and prosecution of them — by making it one of the key strategic goals in the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP)’s Strategic Plan for 2012-2015. (It is strategic goal three: “enhance the integration of a gender perspective in all areas of our work and continue to pay particular attention to sexual and gender based crimes and crimes against children.”)