UN Court Issues 1st Ruling on Rape as War Crime

In the first war crimes case focused solely on rape and sexual slavery, the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague convicted three former Bosnian Serb commanders of rape and torture, issuing sentences ranging from 12 to 28 years imprisonment. It is the first case of its kind to focus on sexual assault with no other accompanying crimes, and the first to apply the concept of slavery to sexual violence and not only to cases of forced labor. Setting an important precedent, the decision is a major victory for women’s human rights worldwide, firmly establishing rape as a crime against humanity.

Judge Florence Mumba declared, “Rape was used by members of the Bosnian Serb armed forces as an instrument of terror.” Over the course of the 11-month trial, 16 victims testified that Bosnian Serb armed forces enslaved Muslim women and girls in “rape camps.” Women and girls as young as 12 years old were repeatedly raped and gang-raped, sold to other soldiers, and forced to live as sexual slaves.


Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe - February 23, 2001

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