Sexual violence is defined as a violent act of a sexual nature, carried out without consent or the capacity to consent. Such acts are not limited to physical violence, and may not involve any physical contact. It is the deliberate exertion of power over another person, not an act of lust. Sexual violence is often used as a tool to systematically humiliate individuals or groups.
Sexual violence results from social inequality and oppressive patriarchal power structures. It constitutes a political crime, employed to pursue political or military goals. Sexual crimes include rape, sexual assault, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization, forced abortion, forced prostitution, sexual slavery, forced circumcision, genital mutilation or forced nudity.
Crimes against humanity
In June 2020, the German police arrested Alaa M, who has since been held in detention awaiting trial. The reason: strong suspicion of complicity in crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian regime since 2011. Approximately one year after his arrest, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office announced that it had filed charges against M, a former Syrian doctor who allegedly tortured, killed and sexually abused people in military hospitals.
In October 2010, ECCHR, along with Theo van Boven filed two amicus curiae briefs before Argentinean courts. The briefs support four different cases in the trials regarding sexualviolence in detention centers during the military dictatorship.
The Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart handed down convictions in the trial of two Rwandan leaders of the Hutu militia group FDLR, Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni. The FDLR are alleged to have utilized sexualized violence against the Congolese civilian population and to have in numerous cases plundered, killed and inflicted grievous bodily injuries.
The Colombian state is denying women the protection against sexual crimes and access to justice that it is obliged to guarantee under national and international law. In response, ECCHR has submitted a criminal complaint against Colombia to the International Criminal Court.
Since the final stage of the Sri Lankan civil war, ECCHR has been working to ensure that high-ranking military personnel and (former) members of the Sri Lankan government and security forces are prosecuted for their role in war crimes, crimes against humanity and sexual violence.
Sri Lanka must comply with its international obligations in the fight against gender-based discrimination. The country should bring its law in line with the UN Convention on Women.
German authorities must finally prosecute sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Syrian detention centers for what it is: a crime against humanity. This is the aim of a criminal complaint that seven survivors of Bashar al-Assad’s torture system submitted in June 2020 to the German Federal Public Prosecutor in Karlsruhe.
After more than six years, the International Criminal Court closed its preliminary examination of war crimes by UK forces in Iraq. The decision from December 2020 reveals systematic failures of international justice and proves, once again, that powerful actors can get away with torture.