Victims of Sexual Violence as Witnesses at International Criminal and Human Rights Courts
Sexual crimes have historically been neglected in international courts and tribunals. No victim of sexual violence was called to offer her or his testimony at the Nuremberg or Tokyo tribunal nor did the first case at the International Criminal Court include any charges for sexual crimes despite reports of mass rape committed against recruited child soldiers. Many reasons have been offered to explain this tendency, amongst them the assumption that priority should be given to crimes deemed more important, the impact of societal taboos, issues of availability of documentary evidence and the assumption that victims of sexual violence are unable or unwilling to come forward.
The latter assumption, that sexual violence victims are unlikely to come forward, has been challenged considerably in recent years. Most recently Jineth Bedoya has offered her testimony before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, recounting her alleged rape in the context of her work as a journalist in Colombia. Her statement before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights was accompanied by large media coverage and attention by civil society, using the hashtag #NoEsHoraDeCallar, meaning it is time to speak up.
With the recent development of victims of sexual violence appearing as witnesses before international courts, new challenges arise, and new guidelines become necessary. The aim of the present research is therefore to determine in a first step the rights of victims of sexual violence when appearing as witnesses before international courts. Clear guidelines shall be given on how to guarantee the right to dignity and security of sexual violence victims while equally safeguarding the defendant’s right to a fair trial. In a second step, the International Criminal Court and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights shall serve as examples of how victims’ rights can effectively be incorporated into the legal framework of both, international criminal and international human rights courts.