Crimes against Humanity

The Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Treatment of Sexual Violence Against Women


Mantilla Falcón, Julissa. 2005. “The Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Treatment of Sexual Violence Against Women.” Human Rights Brief 12 (2): 1–4.

Author: Julissa Mantilla Falcón


Sexual violence against women is an expression of gender- based violence that affects thousands of women around the world during times of armed conflict, as well as in times of peace. Impunity and silence typically surround these cases.

Many times, victims do not discuss what happened to them because of feelings of shame and guilt. In most cases, government authorities and some sectors of civil society do not consider sexual violence to be a human rights violation. Fortunately, international human rights instruments and judicial decisions have begun to define sexual violence as a violation of human rights and, in some contexts, as a crime against humanity or a war crime.

The work of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (PTRC) made important inroads in identifying sex- ual violence as a human rights violation. In its Final Report, the PTRC analyzed the situation of Peruvian women subjected to sexual violence during the armed conflict and countered the idea that it was simply a collateral damage of war. Asserting that sexual violence is a human rights violation, the PTRC established a record of the sexual violence that occurred during Peru’s 20 year armed conflict and recommended that the State institute a system of reparations for the victims.

The Final Report of the PTRC, released on August 28, 2003, includes a chapter on sexual violence against women. This article presents its main findings.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Society, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, International Law, International Human Rights, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, Impunity, Reparations, TRCs, War Crimes, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, SV against Women Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Peru

Year: 2005

The Rape of Slave Boys in Sudan


Sliwa, Maria. 2004. “The Rape of Slave Boys in Sudan.” Contemporary Review 284 (1661): 343–45.

Author: Maria Sliwa



“Although many villagers are aware that young male slaves are raped while in captivity, it is not discussed because of the cultural prohibitions on all forms of homosexuality including rape.” (344)

"In southern Sudan, if two men are found to have consensually engaged in homosexual sex, they are killed by a firing squad." (343)

“Male rape victims, who are able to escape slavery in the North and return to their villages, often consign themselves to a life filled with guild and suffering and do this silently and alone.” (345)

“I interviewed a total of fifteen male slaves, for one to two hours each. Six of the boys interviewed said they were raped and the majority of these six said they were eyewitness to other boys being raped. Most of these six boys said they were raped numerous times, by more than one perpetrator.” (345)

“Though five in this group of fifteen boys said they were not raped, they did say they were either sexually harassed or were eyewitness to other slave boys being raped.” (345)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Boys, International Law, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, Sexual Violence, Rape, Sexual Slavery, SV against Men Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Sudan

Year: 2004

Gender and Sexual Crimes Before Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals


Szpak, Agnieszka. 2011. “Gender and Sexual Crimes Before Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals." International Journal of Public Law and Policy 1 (3): 284-298.

Author: Agnieszka Szpak


Rape has been regarded as a weapon of war, a tool used to achieve military objectives such as ethnic cleansing, genocide, spreading political terror, breaking the resistance of a community, intimidation or extraction of information. The 1949 Geneva Conventions do not refer to acts of sexual violence as a 'grave breach'. The 1990s saw the establishment of the two flagship international criminal institutions – the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as well as codification of rape and other sexual violence as among the gravest international crimes in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The purpose of this paper is on the one hand to point to the achievements of the ad hoc international criminal tribunals in the recognition of gender crimes as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide and on the other, to indicate that there have been some mischaracterisations and misunderstandings in their jurisprudence, particularly as to the issue of consent of the victim of rape as definitional element of that crime.

Keywords: genocide, war rape, ICC, war crimes

Topics: Armed Conflict, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Ethnicity, Gender-Based Violence, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, International Tribunals & Special Courts, War Crimes, Sexual Violence, Rape, SV against Women Regions: Africa, Central Africa, Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Rwanda

Year: 2011

Sexual Assault Recovery in the Aftermath of the Liberian Civil War: Forging a Sisterhood between Feminist Psychology and Feminist Theology


Bryant-Davis, Thelma, Katurah Cooper, Alison Marks, Kimberly Smith, and Shaquita Tillman. 2011. “Sexual Assault Recovery in the Aftermath of the Liberian Civil War: Forging a Sisterhood between Feminist Psychology and Feminist Theology.” Women & Therapy 34 (3): 314-30.

Authors: Thelma Bryant-Davis, Katurah Cooper, Alison Marks, Kimberly Smith, Shaquita Tillman


Cross-border feminist collaborations enhance efforts to combat violence against women, including sexual violence. Sexual assault was a pervasive human rights violation perpetrated against many Liberian women during the over decade long Civil War. Based on a review of the mental health literature focusing on the realities of this crime against humanity in the lives of Liberian women, thirteen interviews were conducted with Liberian Church leaders. The participants and the first and second authors are collaborators on faith-based initiatives aimed at serving and empowering Liberian women and girls through the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Interviewees highlight the effects, dynamics, needs, and solutions for Liberian women attempting to recover from these atrocities. This article utilizes feminist theology and feminist psychology as a frame for understanding the experiences of Liberian sexual assault survivors and feminist cross-border collaborations in West Africa.

Keywords: sexual violence, trauma, recovery



"Often, female combatants were required to perpetrate the very crimes they were subjected to: rape, torture, and murder (Johnson et al., 2008). Female combatants were at an increased risk for sexual violence (42.3%) as compared with their noncombatant counterparts (9.2%) (Johnson et al., 2008). Interestingly, Swiss et al. (2008) report that being required to cook for a soldier, a form of wartime servitude, placed Liberian women at greater risk for sexual violence, 55% versus 10% for those who were not made to prepare meals." (317)

"Research on sexual violence during the Liberian civil war faces linguistic complications, stemming from the lack of terminology for describing rape in Liberian English (Swiss, et al., 1998). However, research in this area has relied on concepts of ‘‘forced sex’’ and visual depictions of sexual coercion to examine the topic." (317)

"In 2005 Liberia passed one of the strictest anti-rape legislation in its region, making statutory and gang rape an 'unbailable' offense; an offense previously holding a $25 bail fee (Callimachi, 2007)." (318)

"With an awareness of the dearth of mental health professionals working in Liberia in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War as well as the central role of religion and spirituality in many Liberian women’s lives, the authors primarily sought out female Liberian Church leaders to shed light on one of the focus areas of their faith-based collaborative projects, the issue of sexual violence during the Liberian Civil War." (321)

 "On the other hand, there are safe places where some women are able to find relief and a safe forum to express their feelings and receive support. The outlets described are Christian Church gatherings, family=informal gatherings, and gender-specific, trauma focused Sexual Assault in the Liberian Civil War workshops hosted in a range of settings; these are reflections of feminist theological and feminist psychological interventions. These distinct outlets have the common ground of community support or social support. The approach they take however is different in that one is based on spiritual knowledge and emotional release while the other is focused on psycho-education or victim-centered information provision. When considering the intersection of feminist theology and psychology, one is required to attend to the holistic needs of rape victims—their minds, bodies, hearts, and spirits." (323-324)

"Interventions based on feminist psychology principles require acknowledging and addressing sexism in all of its manifestations in society, including in religious settings. There is also a need to address women’s sexuality, including their health, empowerment, and self-awareness. Additionally feminist interventions require challenging hierarchies of power and privilege, including the privilege of resource access of women in urban areas as compared to the pervasive neglect of women in rural areas or women marginalized for other aspects of their identity." (326)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender-Based Violence, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, Religion, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Sexual Violence, Rape, SV against Women Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2011

Sexual Violence Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Using Pattern Evidence and Analysis for International Cases


Aranburu, Xabier Agirre. 2010. "Sexual Violence Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Using Pattern Evidence and Analysis for International Cases." Law Social Inquiry 35 (4): 855-79.

Author: Xabier Agirre Aranburu


Establishing the pattern of crime is fundamental for the successful investigation of international crimes (genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity). A pattern of crime is the aggregate of multiple incidents that share common features related to the victims, the perpetrators, and the modus operandi. Pattern evidence and analysis have been used successfully, mainly in the investigation of large-scale killings, destruction, and displacement; the use for sexual violence charges has been remarkably more limited. There is a need to overcome this gap by setting proper methods of data collection and analysis. At the level of evidence collection, under-reporting should be addressed through victimization surveys or secondary analysis of data available from different sources. At the level of analysis, the available evidence needs to be subject to impartial examination beyond the pre-conceptions of the conflict parties and advocacy groups, in compliance with scientific standards for quantitative, qualitative, and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) methods. Reviewing the different investigative experiences and jurisprudence will help to set the right methodology and contribute most efficiently to putting an end to the impunity regarding sexual crimes.

Keywords: sexual violence, criminal investigations, law



"The investigation of international crimes often requires means of evidence and analysis able to show the series of incidents as a whole and to determine whether they have enough in common to be considered a relevant pattern of crime. Such pattern evidence and analysis, from expert testimony to statistics and crime mapping, have been used successfully mainly for killings and mass destruction and displacement, but their use for sexual violence charges has been remarkably more limited. As Susana SaCouto and Katherine Cleary (2009) have observed, 'Unfortunately, while the ad hoc tribunals have used circumstantial or pattern evidence to establish that an accused ordered certain crimes, a review of sexual violence and gender-based cases before these tribunals indicates that they appear more reluctant to do so in these types of cases' (353)." (2)

 "The record of the ICTR has been assessed as 'shameful' because 'crimes of sexual violence have never been fully and consistently incorporated into the investigations and strategy of the Prosecutor's Office' (Nowrojee 2007, 370). n4 Concerning both the ICTR and ICTY, according to expert assessment, there has been a 'tendency to require that the prosecution meet a higher evidentiary standard in cases of sexual violence and gender based crimes' (SaCouto and Cleary 2009, 356). As an experienced practitioner, I have seen professionals refuse to deal with allegations of sexual violence, neglect the relevant evidence, or set higher standards for evidence on a number of occasions." (3)

"The reluctance to investigate sexual violence appears to result from two main factors: lack of awareness and sensitivity among teams usually led by senior male officers and a certain taboo or embarrassment when dealing with intimate aspects of our bodies and minds. Researchers from the field of cognitive psychology and the psychology of law could probably assist in analyzing such prejudices and suggest corrective measures (the most obvious being evaluation at the recruitment stage, training, clear policies and standards, appointment of designated specialized staff, and gender balance in teams)." (3)

"There are at least four notions in the advocacy literature that criminal investigations need to considercritically: sexual violence is not prevalent in every conflict, it is not necessarily a strategic choice as a 'weapon of war,' underreporting is not an axiomatic universal fact, and women are not the only victims." (4)

"The problem of underreporting seems to be particularly acute among male victims since, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2008), 'there is an extremely limited awareness of, and knowledge about, sexual violence against men and boys in conflict among the humanitarian and sexual violence research community' (2). In spite of all the available information, male victims are entirely ignored in the key resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council in relation to sexual violence in armed conflicts (Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, and 1889, adopted between 2000 and 2009)." (6)

"Factual typologies, while necessarily situation specific, may be assisted by consideration of the following very frequent types:   1. Opportunistic: As discussed above, a type of sexual looting decided by the direct perpetrator, who aims primarily at his own sexual satisfaction while taking the opportunity offered by the defenselessness of the victim and possibly other factors.  2. Strategic: when used as a means to terrorize, expel, or subjugate the victim, and possibly her or his community. This may become apparent with conducts that may not give sexual satisfaction to the perpetrator (e.g., [*870] sterilization, mutilation, or penetration with objects) or when the aggression is publicized with an intent to offend the wider population.  3. Captivity: Scenarios of sexual violence in conditions of captivity combine opportunistic and strategic aspects, since the aggression may be decided by the direct perpetrator for his own satisfaction, while the opportunity to abuse is systemically constructed by those who established the captivity regime. This type of crime may include scenarios of abduction, sexual slavery, abuse within detention facilities, forced 'marriage,' or sexual abuse of child soldiers." (9-10)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Men, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, Impunity, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS, UNSCR 1325, UNSCR 1820, UNSCR 1888, UNSCR 1889, Sexual Violence, SV against Men, SV against Women

Year: 2010

The Devil Came on Horseback

"In this unflinching documentary chronicling the genocide in Darfur, former Marine Capt. Brian Steidle is forever transformed by the atrocities he witnesses as a military observer for the African Union. Armed only with his camera, Steidle records the killings of black Africans at the hands of Janjaweed militias funded by Sudan's Arab government. With his bleak photos, Steidle focuses attention on the horrors ignored by the rest of the world."

Crimes of Honor

Counterpoint For Her


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