Sexualized violence in the Colombian conflict – a matter for the International Criminal Court
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 sexualized 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, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), together with the Colombian organizations Sisma Mujer (Sisma) and Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), has today submitted a criminal complaint (known as a communication) against Colombia to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The organizations are calling on the Court’s prosecution authorities to open investigations against suspects in Colombia. “If Colombia is not able or willing to end impunity for sexualized violence against women, the ICC must intervene – as set out by the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court”, says ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck.
In compiling the communication, ECCHR, Sisma and CAJAR examined 36 representative cases of sexualized 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. “In Colombia there are laws and instruments aimed at ending violence against women, but these are almost never adequately enforced by the state”, says Claudia Mejía Duque, Director of Sisma. 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. “Independent and impartial action by the ICC could serve to prevent further crimes”, according to CAJAR President Luis Guillermo Pérez Casas. This, he says, is another reason why prosecutors must now launch investigations into the main perpetrators of grave human rights violations, including sexualized violence.