Women's Caucus for Gender Justice Report

Monday, July 26 2010

Women's Caucus for Gender Justice Report

  It has been a busy and eventful five years since the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice was formed in 1997 to advocate for a gender perspective in the negotiations toward the International Criminal Court.

Through the advocacy of so many women, the Rome Statute stands as the most significant example of gender mainstreaming in an international treaty. The evidence of this is by now obvious to many - the explicit inclusion of rape and other crimes of sexual and gender violence as war crimes and crimes against humanity, an array of measures intended to ensure a more empowered participation and appropriate protection of victims and witnesses as well as provisions to help ensure a presence of women on the Court and gender experts among staff.

The advocacy continued after the Rome Statute into the negotiation of supplemental texts from early 1999 through mid-2002 where definitions of crimes were debated as well as rules of procedure and evidence among. The Women's Caucus was present at this phase too, advocating for progressive and non-discriminatory definitions of rape and other crimes of sexual and gender violence as well as appropriate rules of evidence for the trial of crimes of sexual violence.

Last year saw several key events that signaled the end of one phase of the establishment of the world's first permanent criminal court and the beginning of a new and exciting era. With the 60th ratification on 11 April 2002, the Rome Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002, marking the moment at which the Court's jurisdiction officially took effect. In September, the nomination period for judges was opened and then closed in November with 45 candidates, 10 of whom were women.

This year has proved to be no less eventful. The election of the Court's first 18 judges was held in February during which seven women were elected. Though the Women's Caucus had advocated all along for parity, the election of seven women was a historic achievement in light of the traditionally very low number of women serving in international tribunals.

The nomination and election of the judges was also significant for the way that NGO's at the national and international level worked together in an effort to help ensure the nomination and election of the most qualified candidates and a diverse court.  Women's groups in particular worked to ensure their governments followed the appropriate procedures for the nomination of candidates, advocated for the nomination of qualified female candidates and spoke out if their governments failed to measure up to the standards set by the Rome Statute. Some took great risks in doing so. It was inspiring and exciting to see so many come together again in different ways to have such an important and historic impact.

On 11 March 2003, the inaugural session of the Court was held in The Hague, the Netherlands at which time the judges were sworn into office. And this week, the Assembly of States Parties selected the Chief Prosecutor, Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo of Argentina. Now that the Court is officially opened, it is time to bring the advocacy of the Women's Caucus, as an effort which arose to specifically address negotiations, to a close. It has been a long and multi-layered effort to this point with the involvement of many, many women from all over the world.

The achievements and the Court now belong to everyone.

Advocacy around the world's first permanent criminal court is unprecedented and so is the NGO advocacy needed. Women's groups around the world must now own the ICC and incorporate this new mechanism of international justice and accountability more fully into the consciousness of our work and strategies. While the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice, as a negotiation-focused initiative, has fulfilled its purpose and is being brought to a close, the effort to bring the critical gender and political perspectives to the work of the Court and help ensure the gender gains continue to be implemented will continue in different ways.

One of these ways will be through an effort known as Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice which will have a staff person in The Hague but which will emphasize the development of regional capacities. We will be closing the Women's Caucus' New York office soon to mark the completion of this historic initiative and will be in touch as plans continue to develop toward the future.

We offer our thanks and congratulations to all those who contributed in any way to this effort - through participation in preparatory commission meetings, advocacy in capitols, responding to action alerts, participating in workshops and trainings and subsequent awareness-raising, through offering insights and expertise in documents, proposals and recommendations, not to mention the invaluable assistance of staff, volunteers, interns, and translators.

We also thank the donors, foundations and government agencies who have supported the Women's Caucus advocacy in the ICC negotiations. We encourage you to continue to seek out and support the efforts of women's groups to ensure real gender justice and accountability.

Ariane Brunet, Canada Lorena Fries, Chile Anissa Helie, Algeria/France Betty Murungi, Chair, Kenya Gabriela Mischkowski, Germany Vahida Nainar, India Pam Spees, U.S.A.

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