Women This Week: Impunity at the ICC
ICC Reverses Rape Conviction
Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) overturned a war crimes conviction against former Congolese Vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, ruling that he could not be held responsible for actions committed by his troops in the Central African Republic. The Bemba conviction was the ICC’s first and only conviction for sexual violence as a weapon of war in its twenty year history. ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called the reversal “regrettable and troubling,” but emphasized that the court still recognizes the suffering caused by Bemba’s soldiers. Impunity for rape as a weapon of conflict remains a serious challenge, and prior to its reversal, the Bemba case had been a landmark judgment for gender justice in international criminal law.
U.S. Rejects Domestic Violence Asylum Claims
On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Sessions reversed decades of established law by declaring that domestic violence and gang violence are not grounds for asylum. In vetoing an immigration appeals ruling that granted asylum to a Salvadoran woman who was abused by her husband, Sessions eliminated a path to freedom for women fleeing increased persecution in Central America. According to federal law, asylum seekers must prove that they face persecution in their homeland based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or "membership in a particular social group." Since the 1990s, the U.S. government rendered women fleeing domestic violence eligible to apply to asylum, as have the governments of the UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany. Sessions’ ruling is the latest in a string of immigration crackdowns that disproportionately affect women and children.
Mozambique Launches National Action Plan for Women, Peace & Security
This week, Mozambique launched a National Action Plan for Women, Peace & Security, becoming the 75th country to create a NAP following the UN's landmark Resolution 1325 on including women in peace and security efforts. Under the plan, Mozambique will take measures to strengthen the participation of women in peace mechanisms and address priority actions such as assistance for refugee women and the prevention of sexual abuse. The NAP was drafted in partnership with UN Women and the governments of Norway and Iceland. Research shows that women's involvement in peace processes make resulting agreements 35 percent more likely to last at least fifteen years.