Women Accuse the ICC of Failing Them

A group of activists has accused the International Criminal Court of failing to give prominence to women's issues in conflict.

Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice is a lobby group based in Northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Central African Republic. Its Executive Director, Brigid Inder, says the International Criminal Court (ICC) places more emphasis on dialogue with governments than it does in engaging victims of conflict.

Inder, who is in Kampala for the ICC Review Conference, says organizations independent of government and state control are being denied the opportunity to voice concerns of women, who are often the greatest victims of war. She says the review conference will be meaningless if it does not take into account the specific needs of women.

Yesterday was women's day at the ICC Review Conference. An all-day advocacy event called The Women's Court was held to identify serious violations of women's human rights that occur during armed conflict. It called attention to complaints that these crimes are often not investigated or prosecuted as vigorously as other international crimes.

The international crimes investigated by the ICC are war crimes and crimes against humanity. They are broadly defined to include such crimes as willful killing, torture, compelling a prisoner of war to serve in rebel forces, abduction, pillaging, rape, sexual slavery and intentional starvation

Santa, a woman whose second name has been protected, is one of several activists at the ICC Review Conference. She says she was raped by soldiers of the Lord's Resistance Army in the early years of the war and is unhappy that in its investigations of the guerilla conflict, the ICC has chosen to disregard crimes committed before 2002.

Santa says she and numerous other women suffered atrocities at the hands of the LRA and government soldiers between 1997 and 2000. She wants investigations of this period opened and those implicated, charged.

The 2005 arrest warrants for five senior leaders of the LRA are limited to crimes committed after July 2002. No crimes committed prior to 2002 are to be investigated because Uganda only ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC on June 14, 2002.