United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women

Opening remarks
Angela E.V. King
Assistant Secretary-General and
Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women
at the
Panel Discussion on
"Fair Representation: the ICC Elections and Women"
United Nations Church Centre
29 January 2003, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Madam moderator,
Distinguished panellists,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour and privilege for me to make the opening remarks at this panel on “Fair Representation: the ICC Elections and Women”. At the outset, I would like to thank the organizers of the panel, the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice and the Project on International Courts and Tribunals. I would also like to express my appreciation to the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice as a part of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, which has been very active in monitoring the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security and participated in the Interagency Task Force on Women, Peace and Security, which I had the pleasure to coordinate and which prepared the study undertaken in response to the resolution. That study was completed in October 2002, and the Secretary-General’s action-oriented report based on its findings, was submitted to the Security Council. One of its recommendations which may be of special interest is Action 4 “to ensure that amnesty provisions exclude impunity for gender-based crimes”. These documents led to a thorough discussion by the Council of the report on 28 and 29 October and a strong Presidential Statement stressing the importance of the representation of women in all aspects of peace operations and of a gender-sensitive approach.

We know that international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law and international refugee law have sought to provide a comprehensive legal framework to address the harms experienced by both men and women in war. However, for a long time they have failed to adequately recognize women's singular experience of armed conflict. [In particular, gender-based violence perpetrated against women, including sexual assault and forced marriages during conflict, has traditionally been viewed as a less serious transgression than its non-gender-based equivalent.] The years since the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995 [have witnessed an increase in the number of armed conflicts and an increased abuse of human rights of women and girls by both State and non-State actors, including militias. At the same time, they] have seen important developments in the treatment of harms experienced by women in armed conflict, including the Tribunals created to address crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, and the International Criminal Court, which is the focus of our discussion today. The jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court includes crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. Much as a result of the vigilance of the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice and other groups, the definitions of these crimes take gender concerns into account.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, [which entered into force on 1 July 2002, is significant in a number of ways. It requires that in its “application and interpretation of law”, the Court “must be consistent with internationally recognized human rights, and be without any adverse distinction founded on grounds, such as [inter alia] gender as defined in Article 7, paragraph 3 [of the Statute]”. It] establishes jurisdiction to try crimes of sexual violence, such as rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and forced pregnancy, as crimes against humanity when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed at any civilian population.

The Statute calls for a fair representation of female and male judges and the inclusion of judges with legal expertise on specific issues, including violence against women and children. As Special Adviser on Gender Issues, promoting gender balance and the appointment of women to high-level posts have been among the main priorities of my work in the United Nations and its agencies. It is indeed a major achievement that the need for gender balance has been recognized in the Statute. The Statute also makes provision for the application of gender-sensitive justice, including victim and witness protection measures. [Also of major significance is that the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Court aim to ease the burden of testifying and seek to protect, support and provide for the counselling of victims and witnesses in prosecutions.]

Just as the Rome Statute acknowledges the legal parity of sexual violence in conflict with other violations in times of war, so must the prosecutors and the teams of investigators pursue these crimes as aggressively and as competently as they pursue crimes traditionally classified as crimes against humanity and war crimes. The effective prosecution of sexual violence in conflict is a complex and difficult task, and one with respect to which I offer my encouragement and full support. There should be gender-sensitive women and men as judges, advisers, prosecutors and investigators. Judges and advisers should have legal expertise on issues, such as violations of the rights of women and girls, including gender-based and sexual violence. Prosecutors and teams of investigators should respect the interests and personal circumstances of women and girl victims and witnesses, and take into account the nature of crimes involving gender-based violence, sexual violence and violence against children. [Sexual violence should be anticipated as an element in many allegations, and investigative teams should be well equipped to investigate such crimes and be aware that sexual-assault investigation may require more time than other investigations.]

The International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda have issued several indictments relating to sexual violence. [Those found guilty have been convicted of crimes against humanity, including as a result of rape, enslavement and torture; violation of the laws or customs of war, including as a result of rape, torture and outrages upon personal dignity; and genocide, through rape and sexual violence committed with the specific intent of destroying in whole or in part a particular group.] As you all know, a special landmark case was the September 1998 conviction by the Rwanda Tribunal of the Mayor of Taba, Jean-Paul Akayesu, of crimes against humanity and genocide, including as a result of sexual violence. It is indeed a pleasure to note that one of the judges involved in that case, now the distinguished President of the Rwanda Tribunal, is a panellist here with us today. Another landmark case was the conviction by the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia of Radomar Kovac of violations of the laws or customs of war and crimes against humanity as a result of rape, outrages on personal dignity and enslavement. These advances must be maintained and further expanded.

The Statute’s provision for fair representation of female and male judges mentioned earlier remains of particular importance. This should also apply to advisers, prosecutors and investigators. Since the inception of the Tribunals, the Secretary-General has played a key role in ensuring gender balance in high-level decision-making posts. Two of the three Prosecutors of the Tribunals have been women, Louise Arbour and Carla del Ponte. What concerns me is that the term “fair representation” is open to subjective interpretation unless we make it plain that “fair” in this context can only mean “equal”. Let the activists, practitioners, academics and advocates for gender equality and gender-balanced representation among us today, carry this word forward.

The UN’s goal is equal representation, that is 50 per cent women and men in professional and higher level posts, and gender-sensitive training. The secretariats in The Hague and Arusha also have yet to reach that goal. But we must emphasize that the choice of judges for the ICC is up to Member States, first to nominate, then to elect. This means, of course, that they should also appoint women judges at the national level. They need encouragement and pressure from groups such as the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice, national NGOs, and groups of professional lawyers and jurists. Numbers very much depend on women judges themselves who are willing to stand for election. As yet, we have no empirical research on the impact of gender-balanced Tribunals on the nature and quality of judgements and their impact on women, nevertheless, we believe such balance to be significant. Recent statistics show that we, in the international community, have not done well. There is only one woman judge of 15 in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), three of 16 judges in ICTR and one of 16 judges in ICTY. While we are pleased that nearly 25 per cent of the nominations for the ICC are women, let us urge those who vote to ensure that in this initial election, a positive first step is made towards equal representation.

In closing, Madame Chairperson, it gives me great pleasure to congratulate the distinguished panellists on their nomination for election as judges of the International Criminal Court. I wish them success and fortitude in the historic election to be held next week.

The eyes of women and men around the world will be upon the International Criminal Court as it seeks to provide gendered justice and to forge a legacy powerful enough to deter such vicious crimes in the future. I pledge my full support and ready assistance.

Thank you.

Division for the Advancement of Women -- DAW

Website: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
United Nations