The International Criminal Court: A Model for Gender Integration
Friday, February 10, 2006 10:25 AM

What does a fair representation of female judges on the bench of the
International Criminal Court augur for women's rights?

By Kathambi Kinoti

On January 26, 2006, three more women were elected to the bench of the
International Criminal Court (ICC), bringing the total number of women
judges to eight out of a total of 18 judges. This proportion of 44% is
unprecedented in international courts and tribunals; only 49 out of 260
judges in other international justice organs are women. [1]

The Rome Statute that sets up the ICC requires that there be fair
representation of male and female judges and, according to Kaari Murungi of
Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, fair representation would mean
anything from 40% to 60%. The results of the recent elections have
therefore been lauded as a step in the right direction, [2] and the
precedent they set promises to have significant implications for justice
and the upholding of women's rights.

Raised confidence in the international justice system

The Rome Statute endeavours to ensure that, as the old adage goes, justice
is not only done but is seen to be done. In terms of women's rights, it
does this by integrating gender in the substance of the law, as well as the
structure and procedures of the court. The Statute squarely places crimes of
sexual violence, which were for a long time not treated with the gravity
they deserve, in the category of war crimes, crimes against humanity and
acts of genocide.

Not only does the Rome Statute require fair representation, it also
requires that the court endeavour to hire personnel with legal expertise on
violence against women. In the past, the absence of prosecutions for acts of
violence against women in war has been attributed to 'the inferior treatment
of crimes of sexual violence and the lack of gender sensitivity and balance
in the composition of the prosecutors, investigators and courts that have
dealt with war crimes.' [3] Rather than being relegated to certain pockets,
women's rights implicitly cross-cut the way that the ICC is set up, operates
and is required to apply international human rights law. This is likely to
instil confidence in the international criminal justice system.

Another area in which the Rome Statute promises to improve on the delivery
of justice is in its ability to ensure compliance with its provisions.
Whereas other international human rights organs can usually only resort to
diplomatic or ethical pressure to ensure compliance, the ICC has strong
legal enforcement mechanisms, and its jurisdiction can be applied to
individual perpetrators directly. This will provide opportunities to women
victims whose states are reluctant to prosecute gender based human rights
violations to seek justice directly from the ICC.

Model for women's rights activism

The integration of women and women's rights within the ICC provides a model
for other institutions, whether national, regional or international. This
integration is largely the result of sustained advocacy by women's
organizations. The Women's Caucus for Gender Justice, which was a grouping
of women's organizations from all over the world, made a significant
contribution to the shaping of the Rome Statute. However, advocacy did not
stop with the adoption of the Statute. The Women's Initiatives for Gender
Justice continues to influence the practical realization of the intentions
of the Statute by informing women about job openings in the ICC, lobbying
to ensure that equal numbers of women are elected to the court, and
providing gender-legal advice and training to the court's staff. [4] The
court itself encourages civil society groups to help ensure that that it is
effective as a human rights instrument. [5]

Organizations working on women's rights can use the provisions of Rome
Statute on the administration of the court, the recruitment of personnel
and court procedures, as well as its provisions on substantive law as a
model for other international organs and also national ones. They can also
gather inspiration for their own work from the advocacy of women's
organizations that contributed to making the ICC a tool for gender

The ICC has already established worthy precedents in several areas, and it
will now be under scrutiny for the precedents it sets in its decisions on
violations of women's rights. Hopefully, women's rights activists will also
be able to use its decisions to advance women's rights in their own

1. Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice 'Three women elected to the bench
of the ICC.' January 26, 2006.
2. Ibid.
3. Afrin, Z. and Schwartz, A. 'A human rights instrument that works for
women: the ICC as a tool for gender justice,' ''Defending our dreams'' Ed.
Wilson, Sengupta and Evans. London and New York: Zed Books and AWID, 2005,
p. 152.
4. Ibid. p. 156.
5. Ibid.

Published in: The International Criminal Court: A Model for Gender Integration, Kathambi Kinoti, AWID Resource Net Friday File 261, 10 February 2006.