International Criminal Justice

International Criminal Justice

Legitimacy and Coherence

Edited by Gideon Boas, William A. Schabas and Michael P. Scharf

International criminal justice as a discipline throws up numerous conceptual issues, engaging disciplines such as law, politics, history, sociology and psychology, to name but a few. This book addresses themes around international criminal justice from a mixture of traditional and more radical perspectives.

Chapter 10: Women and international criminal law: steps forward or dancing backward

Helen Durham

Subjects: law - academic, criminal law and justice, human rights, public international law, politics and public policy, human rights, terrorism and security


The narrative of the grand international criminal law and justice ‘project’ as it relates to women is not coherent. Complete consistency of application is something that even the most advanced and nuanced legal systems cannot claim absolutely. The law and its range of prosecution mechanisms is a very blunt instrument in the face of the complexity of human suffering, in particular during times of armed conflict or turbulence. However, to judge hundreds of years’ effort to ‘end the impunity’ of those accused of atrocities exclusively on the basis of the concept of coherence, is to ignore the broader social/political implications that many international legal determinations relating to women have achieved. These achievements, such as the jurisprudential developments clarifying sexual violence and rape as serious inter- national crimes, the inclusion of wider ‘gender’ elements within the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (‘Rome Statute’) (ICC)1 and other ways in which prosecutions have assisted and supported women in post-conflict societies (such as by answering questions about missing loved ones), possess legitimacy above and beyond questions of the consistency of application and understanding. International justice is a wider and broader concept than that which encompasses international criminal law. This wider debate is interesting and important, and much has been written on the need for active participation of women in all types of international justice initiatives.2 Indeed, writers such as Millar clearly articulate the need for any ‘accountability mechanism, whether truth commissions or some other institutional strategy’

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