“[W]hether or not the International Criminal Court will actually serve the interests of victims in an effective & satisfactory way remains to be seen.”[1]

 Just over one year ago, the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo (Bemba) to a total of 18 years’ imprisonment. This was the Court’s first trial judgment for sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). To many, this was a milestone in the Court’s thus far disappointing record regarding sexual violence convictions and sentencing.

Bemba picture

PHOTO: ICC Trial Chamber III sentences Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo to 18 years’ imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003

Since its inception, the ICC has been hailed as a “victim’s court,” one that would give survivors of the world’s most heinous crimes an influential voice in the administration of justice. Unlike its predecessor tribunals, the ICC is obligated to consider victims and their interests at all stages of the proceedings including reparations. ­According to the Court’s founders, these “revolutionary conditions,” meant that the ICC could serve “not only a punitive but also a restorative function,” reflecting the “growing international consensus that participation and reparations play an important role in achieving justice for victims.”[2] But has the Court met its goal? And what about its impact on victims of sexual and gender-based violence? Contrary to its founders’ intentions, it would appear that the ICC does little to assist women or girls in the aftermath of violent sexual and gender-based oppression.

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