Sexual violence in the Colombian conflict

A matter for the International Criminal Court

Colombia – Armed conflict – Sexual and gender-based violence

In 2014, an average of two women were raped every three days in the course of the armed conflict in Colombia. Yet to date there have been very few convictions for sexual violence – and no convictions at all in cases in which the perpetrator was a member of the armed forces.


By failing to act, the Colombian state is denying women the protection against sexualized crimes and access to justice that it is obliged to guarantee under national and international law. In response, ECCHR together with the Colombian organizations Sisma Mujer and Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CCAJAR), has submitted a criminal complaint (communication) against Colombia to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The organizations are calling on the court’s prosecution authorities to open investigations against suspects in Colombia.


In compiling the communication, ECCHR, Sisma and CCAJAR examined 36 representative cases of sexual violence that occurred between 2002 and 2011. Their conclusion: sexual assaults carried out in the course of the armed conflict are not isolated incidents but instead form part of the military strategy and are crimes against humanity. The military enjoy almost total impunity.

The organizations are calling on the ICC prosecution authorities to comply with the standards set out by the court itself; in a 2014 policy paper the court declared it would be adopting a gender perspective and gender analysis in all levels of its work. The three human rights organizations believe that investigations by the ICC could strengthen the peace process in Colombia.


Documents (2)


Glossary (4)


Crimes against humanity

Crimes against humanity are grave violations of international law committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population. Crimes against humanity are part of the core crimes against international law and are subject to universal jurisdiction. Crimes against humanity can include acts such as murder, extermination, enslavement and deportation.

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Sexual and gender-based violence

Rape, sexual assault, forced pregnancy and sexual slavery: these are all sexual violence. In repressive regimes and armed conflict, the military, secret services and police often use these and similar methods as part of their strategy to oppress the civilian population. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is used as a tool against women and girls, as well as men and boys – based on their socially-assigned roles or deviation from such norms (as in the case of LGBTIQ persons). Sexual and gender-based violence attacks the dignity and sexual integrity of those affected. Social norms often prevent those affected from talking about their experiences, and crimes are rarely reported to authorities, prosecuted or dealt with socially. The physical, psychological, economic and social consequences affect the survivors but also their families and communities.

International criminal law allows sexual and gender-based crimes to be prosecuted as acts of genocide, crime against humanity and war crime. In practice, however, investigations, trials and rulings fail to reflect the prevalence and magnitude of these crimes. This is due to gender discrimination being both a root cause of SGBV, as well as the reason impunity for crimes persists. Sexual and gender-based crimes’ depiction and legal classification as an individual, rather than widespread and systematic, crime fails to reflect its frequent nature and the political aim behind their commission.

ECCHR has worked to counter the silencing and trivialization of, and impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes since 2010.


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