Forced Sterilization: Problem Solved?

Author: Regina Paulose

In 1927 the US Supreme Court heard the case of Carrie Buck, a “feeble minded” woman, who was locked up in a state institution. The laws in Virginia gave the superintendent of the institution authority to determine that if it was in the “best interest of the patients and of society” the inmate may be sexually sterilized.  The US Supreme Court voted in favor of Virginia’s statute on forced sterilization. Continue reading

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The Death of Duvalier and Justice for Haiti

Author: Regina Paulose

On October 4, 2014, Jean Claude Duvalier died of a heart attack. Widely known as “Baby Doc” he was given control over Haiti – at the age of 19- after his father passed away in 1971.[1]  His father, Francois Duvalier, was an educated physician. He was known as “Papa Doc.” Papa Doc instituted the “Duvalierist Revolution” where he declared himself president for life, destroyed any institution outside his reach or which criticized him, neutralized the army and had them replaced with the infamous secret police, the tonton makout.[2]  Continue reading

The Rohingya Revisited

Written by:  Regina Paulose

Nearly a year ago, I wrote an article outlining reasons why the ICC should take action in Myanmar (also known as Burma) in order to stop continued religious and ethnic violence towards the Rohingya. During 2013, not surprisingly, the anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar has continued.[1] In fact, violence has spread beyond targeting the Rohingya and against the larger Muslim population.[2] Although the majority displaced from the violence are still the Rohingya. Continue reading

Simone Gbagbo: ICC’s leading lady

Written by: Regina Paulose

In a significant turn of events, Côte d’Ivoire has determined that it will file a motion to dismiss the ICC warrant issued in February 2012 for Simone Gbagbo.[1] Simone Gbagbo is the wife of former Côte d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo, who has a case pending before the ICC.  The ICC has charged Simone Gbagbo with different crimes under crimes against humanity during the post –election violence that took place in Côte d’Ivoire. Simone Gbagbo’s case is an interesting one. She is the first female to be charged with crimes by the ICC.[2]  Continue reading

Enforcing ICL: The Iran Tribunal and the Rios Montt Trial

WRITTEN BY: REGINA PAULOSE

“Silence is the most powerful scream” – Anonymous

There are many incidents that have violated International Criminal Law (ICL) that have taken place in global history but have never been presented to a “legitimate” tribunal for consideration.  Thankfully, this has not stopped victims from finding a way to address the wrongs that have been committed against them. After WWII, the Nuremburg Tribunals showcased that perpetrators of horrible crimes would face punishment by the international community (or at least by the victors of war). Unfortunately, as history continued to unfold, it became clear that whenever an atrocity occurred it did not necessarily mean that every perpetrator would be held accountable for violations of ICL.

Circa 1966, Playwright Bertrand Russell and Philosopher Jean Paul Sartre created the “Russell Tribunal” which investigated crimes alleged to have been committed by the U.S. during the Vietnam War.[1] As Jean Paul Sartre eloquently described,

“[t]he Russell Tribunal was born of this doubly contradictory conclusion: the judgment of Nuremberg had necessitated the existence of an institution to inquire into war crimes and, if necessary, to sit in judgment; today neither governments nor the masses are capable of forming one. We are perfectly aware that we have not been given a mandate by anyone; but we took the initiative to meet, and we also know that nobody could have given us a mandate. It is true that our Tribunal is not an institution. But, it is not a substitute for any institution already in existence: it is, on the contrary, formed out of a void and for a real need.”[2]

These activists envisioned that one day the world would have a permanent court to address war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Philosophically, the ad-hoc tribunals and the ICC are the ideals that Sartre envisioned in his inaugural address. In reality, “selective justice” has continued to cripple the international rule of law. However, as the Iran Tribunal and the Rios Montt Trial prove, citizens are moving together to force open the doors of justice to accommodate them so that they can determine their own truths for the atrocities they have witnessed.

Iran Tribunal

Inspired by the Russell Tribunal, survivors, families of deceased victims, activists, and scholars, created an “Iran Tribunal” to address the atrocities that were committed in the 1980’s by the ruling regime in Iran.[3]  The Tribunal specifically focused on the atrocities committed from 1981-1988. Ayatollah Khomeini appointed a provisional government in 1979. This provisional government began to arrest previous regime members and members of political organizations who spoke out against the Islamic regime. It is estimated from these actions, that approximately 15,000 people were arrested, tortured, and summarily executed.

The Tribunal heard and documented detailed evidence that showed the regime’s use of forced disappearances, various kinds of torture, massive rapes, and other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. Witnesses who came before the Tribunal also gave names of hundreds of victims who were executed without any due process. They described how these prisoners were held for as little as three days and executed by a firing squad or by hanging.

In addition there was testimony regarding various massacres that took place. The Jahrom Massacre was described as follows:

“After Mahmoud Vatanparast, the Governor of Fars Province, refused to rig the province’s parliamentary election results in 1980 in favour of Mohammed Behsarati, a losing candidate, the shari’ah leader of Jahrom ordered the murder of Vatanparast’s entire family from the pulpit of the mosque. Several family members where then summarily executed, including by crucifixion, defenestration, skinning alive, being cut into pieces with shears, and being dragged along the asphalt behind a moving van. Children as young as nine were arrested; others were incarcerated and then killed under torture or in the massacres of 1988. After inhabitants of Jahrom smelt a foul odour coming out of a canal, seventeen dead children were shortly found in the water.”[4]

During the Rasht Prison Fire, several inmates burned to death as guards would not open their cells to allow them to escape the flames. There were massacres in Kurdistan, where hundreds of Kurds were killed in an airport and children were executed in front of their schools.  The regime also used “pardon commissions” but it was commonly referred to as “death commissions.” Prisoners would be brought before the commission and questioned as to their religious/political beliefs. If the commission did not approve of their answer, the prisoners would be taken out and executed.

In its Findings, the Tribunal documented the perpetrators involved and the various locations where these crimes took place. In the Final Judgment  the Tribunal held that the “evidence tendered in these hearings supports a finding that crimes were committed by agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, beginning with the Supreme Leader, and ending with the executions in the prisons and these constitute a breach of international law.”[5] It concluded that the Islamic Republic of Iran committed crimes against humanity during the 1980-1989 period.

Rios Montt Trial

The Iran Tribunal is not an isolated incident of victims demanding justice for the heinous acts of its leaders. In Guatemala, the road to bring Rios Montt to trial for his actions in 1982-1983 for genocide and crimes against humanity was a long one.

“Guatemalan victims’ organizations filed a war crimes case against the general in 2001, but it got stuck in the country’s legal system. Years later, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, the Spanish Constitutional Court accepted a case that had been brought by Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchú charging Ríos Montt and seven other commanders with genocide, terrorism and torture. A tenacious lawyer named Almudena Bernabeu began the investigation. In 2006 a Spanish court issued arrest orders for the general and others, but the Guatemalan government denied extradition. When Ríos Montt was later elected to Congress, he gained immunity from prosecution. Then another extraordinarily brave woman stepped in. After Claudia Paz y Paz became Guatemala’s attorney general in 2010, she filed a case against Ríos Montt (after his term ran out) and two other military commanders on charges of genocide, torture and terrorism.”[6]

Although it has been many years since these events took place, the victims stopped at nothing to bring these perpetrators to justice. The Rios Montt trial is the first time a national court has prosecuted its own head of state for the crime of genocide.[7] The case is still on going as the latest information indicates that the case is moving on to the Sentencing Tribunal.[8]

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) makes it clear that it is prohibited to kill anyone who is not taking part in international armed conflict or internal armed conflict. Even if it is unclear if the situation is an armed conflict, human rights law forbids extrajudicial killing.[9] When violations such as these take place under IHL, the most common method in enforcing these laws is prosecuting individuals through war crimes tribunals.[10]

Whether or not a particular war crimes tribunal exists, has appropriate jurisdiction, or chooses to take action, states have a continued responsibility. “States are also bound to prosecute in their own courts any person suspected of having committed a grave breach of the Conventions, or to hand that person over for judgment to another state. In other words, perpetrators of grave breaches, i.e. war criminals, must be prosecuted at all times and in all places, and states are responsible for ensuring that this is done.”[11] IHL goes deeper in that “it requires States to seek out and punish any person who has committed a grave breach, irrespective of his nationality or the place where the offence was committed. This principle of universal jurisdiction is essential to guarantee that grave breaches are effectively repressed.”[12]

So how does one reconcile that only some events in history are prosecuted and others neglected – especially when international law promotes universal jurisdiction? ICL cannot be taken seriously if it is selectively enforced. The problem is not a lack of laws to regulate unlawful conduct; it’s the lack of political will to take action.  The Iran Tribunal and the Rios Montt trial are symbolic indications of a growing movement. It is a movement opposing sweeping atrocities under the historical rug and creating accountability even when the political will to hold perpetrators accountable may not exist.


[1] The U.S. did not acknowledge the legitimacy of this Tribunal. Since this Tribunal other “Russell Tribunals” have been created which acknowledge different events. The latest Tribunal created has been on Palestine. http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/

[2] Jean Paul Sartre, “Inaugural Statement” Selections from the Russell Tribunal, http://www.vietnamese-american.org/contents.html

[3] The facts that I use here are taken from the Iran Tribunal, Findings of the Truth Commission, July 30, 2012, available at: http://www.irantribunal.com/Eng/PDF/Commission%20Report-p.pdf

[4] Findings, 2.3 -2.3.1.4

[5] Final Judgment in the Iran Tribunal Published, (February 7, 2013) available the Tribunal website and a press release summary can be found at: http://www.irantribunal.com/Eng/PDF/Press%20release-judgment.pdf.

[6] Laura Carlsen, Genocide on Trial in Guatemala, The Nation, available at: http://www.thenation.com/article/166526/genocide-trial-guatemala#

[7] Amy Ross, “Wading Uncharted Waters: The Trial of Ross Montt” ALJAZEERA, February 4, 2013, available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/02/20132364350499257.html

[8] Kate Doyle, “Rios Montt on Trial for Genocide in Guatemala” February 7, 2013, available at: http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/8920

[9] The most authoritative source on IHL issues is the ICRC. The ICRC also maintains a database with all the treaties and relevant IHL texts which can be found at: www.icrc.org

[10] American Red Cross, Prosecutions of Violations of IHL, (April 2011), available at: http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4640075_IHL_ProsecutionofViolations.pdf

[11] ICRC, “How are War Criminals Prosecuted under International Law?”  (January 1, 2004) available at: http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/misc/5kzmnu.htm

[12] Id

The Issue of Consent in Rape Prosecution: International Tribunals and Indian Courts

Written by Garima Tiwari

(  http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/ptsd)

While India struggles to make amendments to the existing rape laws a brief look into how the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Tribunals have dealt with rape would be interesting. A look at the Indian position in the same context would help understand how the process differs particularly with reference to the issue of ‘consent’.

Nicolas  Poussin’s  famous  painting the “Rape of the Sabine Women” depicts women  walking  away  arm-in-arm  with  their  rapists,  suggesting “that  the  abducted  women  soon  accepted  their   assailants  as husbands.” It is  not surprising  then,  that rape  and  other  forms  of sexual violence  emanating  from  war  have  historically  been undocumented  and unpunished crimes.  Rape has been viewed as a reward or “spoil of war.”‘[i]

The first international treaty implicitly outlawing sexual violence, the Hague Convention of 1907, did not end impunity for these crimes: after World War II, for instance, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg did not expressly prosecute sexual violence, and the Tokyo Tribunal ignored the Japanese army’s enslavement of “comfort women”. In 1949, the landmark Geneva Conventions stated: “Women shall be especially protected … against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault.” [ii] It was the two  ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR), which, for the first time, dealt comprehensively with the crime of rape.

Position taken by ICTR

The Akayesu case[iii]  recognised that rape is an extremely grave crime as it can constitute genocide and a crime against humanity, providing that all the other elements for each of these crimes are met. Here the ICTR adopted a very broad definition of the crime of rape, which is defined as ‘a physical invasion of a sexual nature, committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive’. It also dealt with sexual violence, a broader category which includes the more specific crime of rape, whose identifying elements are recognised as ‘any act of a sexual nature which is committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive. Sexual violence is not limited to a physical invasion of the human body and may include acts which do not involve penetration or even physical contact’.[iv] Thus, in  Akayesu coercion was identified as the criteria for rape consent was irrelevant. The Semanza trial chamber[v] held that “the mental element for rape as a crime against humanity is the intention to effect the prohibited sexual penetration with the knowledge that it occurs without the consent of the victim.” In effect, rape went from being a physical act committed on the body of a victim to a psychic act committed in the mind of the perpetrator and the issue of lack of  consent became relevant. Kajelijeli[vi], followed Semanza and focused on non-consent and description of body parts when determining whether Mr. Kajelijeli should be held responsible for rapes committed by forces under his command. He was found innocent of rape and was not found guilty of genocide for the rapes his men committed. In the Muhimana case[vii] ICTR stated that, “coercion is an element that may obviate the relevance of consent as an evidentiary factor in the crime of rape.” In other words, the court ruled that most international crimes will be almost universally coercive—making true consent virtually impossible and therefore irrelevant for international prosecution.

The judgment and sentence in Prosecutor v. Karemera et al.[viii], issued recently by Trial Chamber III of ICTR secured the first international judgment to ever hold high-level government officials responsible for rape in such circumstances unlike as we will see what happened in Lubanga.[ix]

Proving rape in genocide (or other violent conflicts) using the Akayesu criteria would be relatively straightforward. Once the context of the violent conflict has been established, rape occurring within that context is assumed to be non-consensual. On the other hand, many rapes that would be provable under Akayesu would be difficult or impossible to prove under the Semanza definition. This would not only insult the victims but severely damage the credibility of the international tribunals for handling rape cases.[x]

Position taken by ICTY

The Delaliæ et al case aka Èelebiæi case[xi] case confirmed the approach that characterises the ICTR jurisprudence on the matter. In fact, the judges adopted the same ‘conceptual’ broad definition found in the Akayesu judgment. However, the ICTY in the Furundžija judgment[xii], adopted a more technical and specific definition. It qualified rape as an outrage upon personal dignity as provided for in Article 3 of the ICTY Statute (war crimes) and torture.The Furundžija definition (para. 185) represents the result of a peculiar approach followed by the ICTY, which involved looking at national jurisdictions to extrapolate what—due to the international lacuna on the matter—should represent a common perception of the elements of the crime. The outcome of this exercise was the following definition of rape, which is divided into two parts:(i) the sexual penetration, however slight:  (a) of the vagina or anus of the victim by the penis of the perpetrator or any other  object used by the perpetrator; or (b) of the mouth of the victim by the penis of the perpetrator; (ii) by coercion or force or threat of force against the victim or a third person. Thus, here coercion and lack of consent both were needed. This amounted to reintroducing the relevance of consent for rape prosecution. In the  Kunarac et al case [xiii]it was held that rapes that occurred in a brothel-like setting in Foca were a form of enslavement. The court drew on the Furundzija decision and concluded that “sexual penetration will constitute rape if it is not truly voluntary or consensual on the part of the victim.” It put forward a definition whose elements could be generally recognised as essential by the most representative countries in the world. Therefore, once again, an in-depth research of national jurisdictions was carried out and the conclusion is a step beyond the Furundžija definition. Sexual acts are forbidden when perpetrated against the free will of a person, and the ‘use of force-threat’ element is reduced from the status of an element of the crime to a being evidence of the lack of consent of the victim to the sexual intercourse. The judges confirmed rape as a war crime and crime against humanity. Moreover, the act of rape was considered as one of the underlying acts for the crime of enslavement. Instead, in defining the elements of rape, the Foca Trial Chamber included a consent paradigm, permitting defendants to use consent to sex as a defense, which had been considered and excluded from previous Chambers. While the ICTY’s definition of consent laudably incorporates the notion of sexual autonomy, and is a liberal standard relative to consent requirements globally, the consent paradigm is inappropriate in conflict situations where rape is used as a weapon of war.

The Kvocka et al case [xiv]  reintroduced the requirement of the use of force as an element of the crime, together with the lack of consent. The Kunarac et al Appeal Judgement[xv] confirmed the previous definition given by Trial Chamber II in the same case. The Appeals Judges confirmed that the lack of consent is conditio sine qua non of the definition of rape and that the requirement of the use of force is not an essential element but rather a symptom of lack of genuine consent (para. 129).[xvi] The Appeals Chamber leaned toward the need to “presume non-consent” in contexts like genocide. In situations like Foca where women were held in rape camps, “such detentions amount to circumstances that were so coercive as to negate any possibility of consent.”

As Catherine MacKinnon notes : No other crime against humanity, once other standards are met, requires that the crime be proved to be non-consensual. In fact, using victim’s consent as a defense would be bizarre. Consider a trial for murder within a genocide. How plausible would it be if a defendant claimed that, even though the act of killing took place within a setting of genocide, the victim had really wanted to be killed, so the perpetrator simply obliged? The reason that consent is not relevant for prosecuting rape in international crimes is that the crime takes place within a context where what we normally think of as sexual autonomy (at least for women) does not exist. Given the context of radical force, there is no true choice and so no consent in international crimes.[xvii]  Thus, ICTY and ICTR are both trying to presume non-consent in coercive situations which I think is very positive.

Position taken by ICC

The Statute of the International Criminal Court proves that the achievements of the ICTR and ICTY with regard to the prosecution of the crime of rape have been generally accepted by the international community. Article 7(g) of the ICC Statute specifically prohibits rape and, in addition, includes ‘sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity’ within the notion of crimes against humanity. Moreover, paragraph (h) of Article 7 confirms persecution as a crime against humanity and includes gender as a new discriminatory ground. At paragraph 3 of the same Article it is further specified that the term gender is general in nature, thus referring to both sexes. Rape is also listed in Article 8 (b) (xxii)-1 as a war crime.     In the Elements of Crime annexed to the ICC Statute, the crime of rape requires the penetration of the anal or genital opening of the victim with an object or otherwise the penetration of any part of the body with a sexual organ, thus recalling the analogous first part of the Furundžija definition. Similarly, a reference to coercive situations capable to vitiate the genuine consent of the victim of rape is provided for in Article 7 (1) (g)-1 of the Elements.Thus, both coercion and consent have been discussed.

But the first judgment delivered by the ICC failed to give any help in this regard. In the Lubanga case, despite evidence pointing to wide spread rape and other forms of sexual violence against in particular girl child soldiers, the Prosecutor did not include crimes of sexual violence in the charges. The charges were brought under Article 8, war crimes, and as such could have included charges of torture, rape, sexual slavery or outrages upon personal dignity. The Trial Chamber noted that they chose not to amend the charges. The Prosecutor could have amended the indictment at any time prior to trial or even at a reasonable moment during the presentation of the prosecution case.

Judge Odio Benito, in her dissent, differed from the majority’ decision not to use the evidence of sexual violence as a means to define the legal elements of enlistment, conscription of children or use of children in hostilities as innate to their status as child soldiers. Judge Odio Benito’s reasoning related to the interpretation of the war crime charges at hand and, thus, was not conditioned upon the submission of further amended charges. Evidence or information certainly did come out during the trial concerning the widespread nature of the sexual violence that occurred when these children were conscripted and enlisted. To that extent the case highlights the sexual violence even though it has not been charged.[xviii] Various groups suggested later on that a failure to add more serious charges would run the risk of offending the victims and strengthen the growing feeling of mistrust of the work of the ICC and of the work of the prosecutor especially. [xix]

Rape Law in India

India’s current definition of rape is steeped in outmoded traditions, dates from 1860, and  has been amended only twice since then, in 1983 and 2003. In India,it is defined as intentional and unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent. According to section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, an allegation of rape has to satisfy the either of the following criteria: sexual intercourse between a man with a woman in the following circumstances: (a) against the will of the woman; (b) without her consent; (c) under duress; (d) consent obtained by fraud; (e) consent obtained by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication. If the woman is below the age of 16 years, sexual intercourse is deemed to amount to rape.  Even if the woman has consented, it would be considered rape under the law. There is however, an exception to this definition of rape.  Un-consented sexual intercourse between a man and his wife would not amount to rape if the wife is 16 years or older. According to section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, the minimum sentence for a convicted rapist is seven to 10 years, while the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Gang rape carries a punishment of 10 years to life imprisonment. However, in certain situations a convicted rapist can get away with serving less time since the law allows the judge discretion to award a lesser punishment in special cases such as an aged person or a person of unsound mind. Under section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, sexual assault is described as “outraging the modesty of a woman” – a description considered archaic, subjective and limited by legal experts. Currently sexual assault crimes carry a maximum punishment of two years. [xx]

Thus, issue of consent and coercive situations both have been incorporated in the Indian law, but the application of law is not in tandem with the requirements of justice as what is consent is linked with various social, cultural and moral annotations along with the character and sexual history of the prosecuterix. In 2011, only 26% of rape trials ended in conviction. In Delhi for instance, there’s only been one conviction out of 635 cases of rape reported in 2011.[xxi] This is also because, various social elements like the stigma attached to pre-marital sex, stereotyping as well as virginity play in the mind. This presumption of consent was embodied in Section 155 (4) of the Indian Evidence Act, which allowed defendants to offer evidence about a victim’s character and sexual history and remained there till altered as recently as 2002.  Changing law does not change much, since various practises and notions surrounding rape still stem on the character of the victim, like use of the “two-finger test” being a sufficient testament of the history of sexual intercourse of the victim. Indian law is still based on the colonial times and ironically while Britain changed its rape law with time, we are still caught in the web of antiquity. Another important aspect is the mindset. According to a survey by Sakshi, an NGO active in gender issues, 74% of judges surveyed a decade ago believed that “preservation of the family” should be a principal concern for women even in the event of violence in the home. And 51% believed that women who stay with abusive husbands are “partly to blame” for their plight. Some 68% felt that “provocative attire was an invitation to rape” and 55% felt that the “moral character of the victim” was relevant.

In the Mathura Rape case [xxii] the Supreme Court acquitted the two policemen who raped a sixteen year old girl on the grounds that the victim had no visible marks of injury and that she did not raise an alarm. Here consent has been implied from no resistance. In Mohd. Habib v. State [xxiii] the Delhi High Court acquitted a man who raped a seven year old girl, asserting that there were no marks of injury on his penis. The Court refused to take cognizance of the bite marks on the victim’s person and the fact that she suffered a ruptured hymen on account of the sexual assault. Even the eye- witnesses who witnessed this ghastly act, could not sway the High Court’s judgment.  In State of Punjab vs. Gurmit Singh[xxiv] , the Supreme Court has advised the lower judiciary, that even if the victim girl is shown to be habituated to sex, the Court should not describe her to be of loose character. The Supreme Court has in the case of State of Maharashtra Vs. Madhukar N. Mardikar [xxv] , held that “the unchastity of a woman does not make her open to any and every person to violate her person as and when he wishes. She is entitled to protect her person if there is an attempt to violate her person against her wish. She is equally entitled to the protection of law. Therefore merely because she is of easy virtue, her evidence cannot be thrown overboard.” Thus, character, and prior sexual history does not imply consent. In some cases the Supreme Court has also observed that sex with the consent of the girl on a promise to marry her will not constitute rape unless it was shown that such consent was obtained by the man under coercion or threat.[xxvi]

The Mathura case is relevant because a minor change in the law did take place in 1983, focussing on custodial rape in which it would no longer be necessary to prove lack of consent. This is similar to the situation of coercion as used in the International tribunals for the situation is such, wherein the victim is unable to retaliate, consent would not be needed. This has been provided under Section 114A of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 as presumption of no consent.

Justice Verma Committee, formed as a response to the Delhi Gangrape incident, recommends inclusion of marital rape thereby highlighting marriage does not given unequivoval right over the body of the other, and consent remains relevant. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, widens the ambit by replacing the word rape with sexual assault .While earlier, the definition of rape under the Indian Penal Code was sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent, courts have confined it to penile penetration of the vagina. The new amendment though brings under the ambit of this offence penetration of “vagina, anus, urethra or mouth with any part of the body including the penis, or any other object for a sexual purpose”. The definitions are also making the law gender neutral. Thus, consent in all such cases would be looked into.

Conclusion

As seen above, both in Indian law and international law, two criteria are used to identify rape: Coercion and non-consent.[xxvii] Indian law includes both in some way yet, consent is sometimes judged with eyes of stereotyping. Some countries, may adopt either of the two. The trend of ICTR and ICTY more towards looking at the situation as coercive, because of the nature of events and placing consent irrelevant in such circumstances of war and conflict.

There are several ways that the international crime of rape may be different from some national definitions of rape. There are a important legal and procedural protections offered to rape victims by most international courts which are mostly absent from national courtrooms, such as permitting in camera testimony and not permitting attacks on the victim’s credibility through probing their sexual relationships. The tribunals have also taken positive steps to ensure victims of sexual violence can testify without retribution or fear for their safety. Through the development of its rules of procedure, the ICTY has sought to protect the victims of sexual violence from abusive lines of questioning during testimony. Witnesses can also testify under a pseudonym, with face and voice distortion in video feeds, or in closed session. Thus, the procedural  rules  in  the ICTY  and ICTR,  and  ICC,  allow  for  judicial  discretion  in  granting  witness anonymity. Again, in wartime rape  crimes,  identity  does  not become  a  crucial factor,  as  it  does  in  regular  domestic  rape  cases. Furthermore, as is clear from above discussion, international criminal law does not revolve around the issue of consent to the same extent as it does in many national settings.

Even though a lot can be learnt from the various procedural and legal protections offered by international tribunals, the issue of consent has to be studied differently in different national systems whose national, religious, cultural and political ideologies infuse the laws.


[i] Patricia H.  Davis, Comment, The  Politics of Prosecuting Rape as a  War Crime, 34INT’LLAW 1223,1226  (2000)

[iii] Case No. ICTR-96-4-T, 2 September 1998

[iv] Akayesu, para. 688,Musema, case No. ICTR-96-13, at para. 965

[v] Prosecutor v. Semanza, Case No. ICTR-97-20-T, Judgment and Sentence (May 15, 2003)

[vi] The Prosecutor v. Juvénal Kajelijeli (Judgment and Sentence), ICTR-98-44A-T, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), 1 December 2003, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/404466007.html %5Baccessed 30 January 2013]

[vii] The Prosecutor v. Mika Muhimana, Case N° ICTR-95-1B-T

[viii] The Prosecutor v. Édouard Karemera et al., Case No. ICTR-98-44-T (issued on 2nd February 2012)

[x] MacKinnon, Catherine A. 2006. “Defining Rape Internationally: A Comment on Akayesu.” Pp. 237-246 in Are Women Human? Catherine MacKinnon. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

[xi] Case No. IT-96-21-T, 1998

[xii] Case No. IT-95-17/1-T, 10 December 1998

[xiii] Case No. IT-96-23 and IT-96-23/1, 22 February 2001)

[xiv] Case No. IT-98-30/1, 2 November 2001; ( paras. 177-178).

[xv] Case No. IT-96-23 & IT-96-23/1 A, 12 June 2002 paras. 125-133),

[xix] “Obtaining further charges in the opening case against Thomas Lubanga”, Statement by women’s rights and human rights NGOs of the DRC on the prosecutions by the ICC, Beni, September 16, 2006

[xxii] 1978) CrLJ 1864 SC

[xxiii] (1989) CrLJ 137 Delhi

[xxiv] (1996) 2 SCC 384

[xxv]  AIR 1991 SC 207

[xxvii] Supra Note 10

The ICC: Protection for the Rohingya?

Written by: Regina Paulose

In November 2012, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC released its Report on Preliminary Examination Activities 2012, which examines situations in various countries for acts which could potentially amount to crimes against humanity and/or war crimes. Some of the countries mentioned in this report are North Korea, Columbia, and Afghanistan.[1] While one could question some of the cases the OTP is currently investigating,[2] this author takes the position that there are other atrocious human rights situations which need the immediate attention of the ICC.  In particular, the OTP should begin to make efforts to investigate and address the continued persecution and abuse of the Rohingya population in Burma.[3]

The Status Quo Conflict and Response

According to some scholars, the Rohingya’s origins are not entirely clear.[4] Setting aside this debate, the Rohingya mainly reside in Burma on the western side. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Burma where the majority of the population is Buddhist. It is estimated that there are currently 800,000 to 1 million Rohingya living in Burma. Since the 1970’s the regime in Burma has been trying to drive out or restrict the Rohingya.[5] This sentiment was put into law in 1982 when it created a Citizenship Law, which mandates that a person must prove their Burmese ancestry dating back to 1823 in order to have freedom of movement and access to other basic rights such as education in the country.[6] (Recall: Armenian Genocide and Nazi Germany). This law is one of the prime reasons why the Rohingya have become “stateless.”

The Rohingya have been the target of violence and recent clashes, which has left “dozens dead and tens of thousands internally displaced.”[7] One does not have to look further than the last 8 months to truly see how the regime continues to treat the Rohingya. In June 2012, an outbreak in communal violence between the Buddhist and Muslim Rakhine and the Rohingya lead to massive sweeps resulting in detention of Rohingya men and boys. (Recall the massacre at Srebrenica). Reports indicated that these groups were subject to ill treatment and were held “incommunicado.”[8] In October 2012, satellite images showed that homes of the Rohingya were being destroyed by security forces. The security forces then overwhelmed and cornered the Rohingya to drive them out of the area. This destruction is on top of the gruesome reports of beheading and killing of women and children.[9] (Recall: Rwanda).  The violence has continued in spurts, but is clearly directed at the Rohingya and motivated purely by hatred.

Faced with no other alternatives and with no access to justice in their country, the Rohingya have begun to flee only to be met with rejection from other countries. On the first day of 2013, some members of the Rohingya group were intercepted by Thai authorities and were deported back to Burma.[10] The Thai Navy is under orders to send them away from Thailand. Bangladesh has also expressed that it is not willing to accept Rohingya into their country.

Some countries however are reaching out to the Rohingya. For instance, Malaysia does accept the Rohingya as refugees. Iran recently sent humanitarian aid in order to help and has called upon the UN to take action.[11] Regionally, ASEAN offered to conduct “talks” but that was “rejected.” The regime explained that it sees the escalating violence as an “internal problem.”[12]

After a close examination of these events, the U.S. Presidential visit in November 2012, made the waters murky. President Obama felt that Burma was “moving in a better direction” and that there were “flickers of progress.” During the visit the President met with an advocate of the Rohingya population. While President Obama stated that his visit was not an endorsement of the current government, simple questions arise as to what the U.S. would be willing to do (or not do) to prevent this sectarian violence from escalating.[13] Not surprisingly, after the visit, Thein Sein made 2013 human rights news, when his regime admitted to using air raids against the Kachin rebels who are battling the government for control over certain territories.[14]

Rohingya Refugees

The ICC and its potential involvement

There are two interesting points of discussion that this scenario creates. The first is how the Office of The Prosecutor (OTP) would be able to meet jurisdictional requirements if it were to seriously consider prosecution. The controversial propio motu powers of the Prosecutor would allow her to investigate this situation. Articles 13, 15, and 53 of the Rome Statute require temporal jurisdiction, territorial or personal jurisdiction, and material jurisdiction. In addition, there are requirements in the Statute concerning admissibility. Burma is not a state party to the Rome Statute. The real challenge with this case would be with meeting the territorial or personal jurisdiction elements. Of course the easiest way to meet this requirement would be if the UN Security Council (UNSC) would be willing to refer the case as it did with Bashir of  Sudan.  As stated above, the U.S. Presidential visit does not make clear at this time what the U.S. position would be, especially considering the U.S. also eased sanctions, perhaps as a symbol of new relations, on the regime in November.

Another interesting point of discussion also concerns the potential charges. This author believes that this is a strong case for various charges under crimes against humanity against the Government. Another added dimension to this is that there are also civilians who target the Rohingya and seek to remove them from Burma. Since the posting of this article in January, there has been a recent increase in violence between Buddhist monks, civilians, and the Rohingya.  As previously noted, the regime has continuously called the situation with the Rohingya an “internal problem.”  The situation with the Rohingya can be distinguished from the conflict with the Kachin rebel/soldiers who are fighting for territory and independence.

Some other kind of action is now necessary besides dialogue and commentary from high level UN officials. Our cries of “never again” have become hollow.  The purpose of the ICC should be to facilitate deterrence in addition to punish perpetrators of grave crimes. The international community waits for these situations to become so grave that every action becomes too late. We cannot say we are students of history, when we continually are faced with the same situations over again and repeat the same mistakes. Our ability to ignore tragedy has come at the expense of hundreds of thousands of lives.

Interested in reading more or the full length analysis? Check out: A Road Well Traveled: Religion, Just War, and the Rome Statute, 2(2) A38JIL (2013) 178.

http://www.athirtyeight.com/2013/06/volume-2-issue-2.html


[1] A copy of this report can be found at ICC Coalition website which keeps an excellent record of documents pertaining to the ICC and the OTP: http://www.iccnow.org/?mod=browserdoc&type=14&year=2012

[2] This author questions some of the potential charging decisions being made by the ICC – for instance – the case involving North Korea and South Korea, is a clear act of aggression, but is under examination as a war crime. The death toll in this case is 22 people. The OTP is spending resources in Colombia, to assess whether the government is prosecuting the FARC properly. The author concurs that these cases are worthy of ICC attention, but questions why the ICC wont deal with situations that are ongoing which need immediate intervention. (Besides financial reasons).

[3] The great name debate: the U.S. recognizes the official name of the country as Burma.  Myanmar is the name was introduced by the former military regime, 23 years ago, and is preferred by the current regime. President Obama reportedly did refer to the country as Myanmar out of diplomatic courtesy when meeting with Thein Sein, President  in November 2012. See http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/19/politics/obama-asia-trip/index.html

[4] For a comprehensive report on the Rohingya situation, see Human Rights Watch, “The Government Could Have Stopped This” a report released July 31, 2012 and available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2012/07/31/government-could-have-stopped . Khaled Ahmed, “Who are the Rohingya?” The Express Tribune, July 31, 2012, available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/415447/who-are-the-rohingya/

[5] Gianluca Mezzofiore, “Myanmar Rohingya Muslims: The Hidden Genocide” August 22, 2012, available at: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/376189/20120822/burma-myanmar-rohingya-muslims-ethnic-cleansing.htm

[7] UN News Centre, “Independent UN expert calls on Myanmar to carry out latest human rights pledges.” November 20, 2012, available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43550

[8] Amnesty International, “Myanmar: Abuses against Rohingya erode human rights progress.” July 19, 2012, available at: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/myanmar-rohingya-abuses-show-human-rights-progress-backtracking-2012-07-19

[9] Human Rights Watch, “Burma: Satellite Images Show Widespread Attacks on Rohingya” November 17, 2012 available at: http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/11/17/burma-satellite-images-show-widespread-attacks-rohingya

[10] Human Rights Watch, “Thailand: Don’t Deport Rohingya ‘Boat People’” January 2, 2013, available at: http://www.hrw.org/node/112247

[11] Ahlul Bayt News Agency, “Iran to Send 30 tons of Humanitarian Aid to Myanmar’s Rohingyas” January 5, 2013, available at: http://abna.ir/data.asp?lang=3&Id=378800

[12] ALJAZEERA, “Myanmar rejects talks on ethnic violence” October 31, 2012, available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2012/10/2012103161130375846.html

[13] Although I thoroughly question the impact of sanctions and their utility, some sanctions were eased on Burma in the days leading up to the Presidential visit.

[14] See Thomas Fuller, “Myanmar Military Admits to Airstrikes on Kachin Rebels” New York Times, January 2, 2013, available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/03/world/asia/myanmar-military-admits-air-raids-on-kachin-rebels.html?smid=tw-nytimesworld&seid=auto&_r=1&. See also Associated Press, “Myanmar’s Kachin rebels accuse government of artillery attack on headquarter city” January 6, 2013, available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/apnewsbreak-myanmars-kachin-rebels-accuse-government-of-artillery-attack-on-headquarter-city/2013/01/06/dc668006-57fa-11e2-b8b2-0d18a64c8dfa_story.htm