Close to HomeA Short History, and Rough Typology, of National Courts Prosecuting Wartime Sexual Violence

Research paper by Seelinger K.

Indexed on: 07 Jul '20Published on: 13 May '20Published in: Journal of International Criminal Justice


AbstractFor decades, the ad hoc tribunals and the International Criminal Court have taken the presumptive spotlight in prosecuting international crimes cases, including those involving conflict-related sexual violence. However, recent progress in prosecuting conflict-related sexual violence in national courts has started to both fulfil and complicate the notion of ‘complementarity’ between these two arenas of international criminal justice. This article presents the historical antecedents and current diversity of national courts addressing conflict-related sexual violence. It first casts back to the 1940s, to the little-known efforts of the United War Crimes Commission that guided national authorities in their prosecution of wartime atrocities including rape and forced prostitution. It then focuses on three kinds of national courts addressing conflict-related sexual violence today: military tribunals, hybrid tribunals and ‘purely domestic’ specialized chambers, highlighting key case studies and different ways these courts have engaged international actors. In conclusion, the article confirms the growing importance and diversity of national courts in the prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence, identifying ways the international community can better support survivors’ access to this more local justice.