‘When We Wanted to Talk About Rape’: Silencing Sexual Violence at the Special Court for Sierra Leone

Citation:

Kelsall, Michelle Staggs, and Shanee Stepakoff. 2007. “‘When We Wanted to Talk About Rape’: Silencing Sexual Violence at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 1 (3): 355–74. doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijm034.

Authors: Michelle Staggs Kelsall, Shanee Stepakoff

Abstract:

This article explores the legal and psychological ramifications arising from the exclusion of evidence of sexual violence during the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) case at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Using empirical findings from post-trial interviews conducted with the ten victim-witnesses who were originally to testify, we juxtapose what the Special Court allowed the women to say, and what the women themselves wanted to say. From a legal perspective, we then critique the Trial Chamber's reasons for excluding the evidence and question the legal bases upon which the women were silenced, arguing that wider and wider circles of the women's experience were removed from the Court's records despite there being ample authority at an international level to support inclusion. We further look at the gendered biases in international criminal law and how expedience and efficiency usurped the significance of prosecuting crimes of sexual violence in this instance. From a psychological perspective, we discuss the consequences that the act of silencing had for the witnesses, and argue that a more emotionally sensitive understanding of the Court's notion of ‘protection’ is required.

Topics: Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2007

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