In a letter released today, the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and six other Nobel laureates – called on members of the African Union (AU) to back the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a critical tool for combating rape and other forms of gender violence. African leaders are gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on October 11 and 12 for an extraordinary summit of the AU. It is expected that member states will consider a proposal for a united pullout from the ICC and the treaty that created it, the Rome Statute.
“Ending gender violence in conflict must be a top priority for all AU member states,” said Leymah Gbowee, Nobel peace laureate and Co-Chair of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. “A decision to withdraw from the ICC will be very bad news for survivors who seek justice, and very good news for rapists who expect to get away with their crimes.”
The news that some African ICC states may be considering withdrawal from the Rome Statute has alarmed activists in Africa and around the world who work to end sexual violence in conflict.
“This could be a step back in the struggle against impunity for crimes against humanity, especially rape during war,” said Dr. Denis Mukwege, Founder and Medical Director of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and an Advisory Committee member of the International
Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. “Without real justice, there will be no lasting peace for Africa or the rest of the world.”
In their letter, Campaign members note the critical role the ICC plays in bringing justice for rape survivors: “As a court of last-resort, the ICC often represents the only opportunity rape survivors have to access justice… The ICC trials serve as powerful symbols that even those at the highest level of power will not get away with using rape as a weapon of war.”
Campaign member Sonke Gender Justice from South Africa is calling on AU Chair/South African senior politician Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to use her position in support the ICC.
“South Africa has long been a staunch supporter of the ICC,” said Sonke Director Dean Peacock. “We call on our government to use its influence at the AU to ensure that human rights are strengthened”.