Mass Rape and Genocide: International Law and the Increased Need for Deterrence Regarding War Crimes Committed During Civil Conflict
CitationPrins, Gladys. 2017. Mass Rape and Genocide: International Law and the Increased Need for Deterrence Regarding War Crimes Committed During Civil Conflict. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThis thesis explains why there is an increased need for deterrence in international law with regard to war crimes of sexual violence and mass rapes. Increased deterrence is necessary in nations where there is ongoing civil conflict. This thesis will also clarify the laws that were implemented to serve and protect women and children from these types of war crimes at the beginning of the 20th century. These current laws have not done enough to deter sexually violent crimes toward women and children in civil conflict. There has been an increase in reported human rights abuses of sexual violence over the last eight decades. These abuses of sexual violence target the female population. One such example is the Holocaust, which is a contemporary civil conflict where women experienced sexually violent crimes and were brutally raped on a continual basis. These types of war crimes were used as a method of genocidal destruction and population control. Even though the Holocaust is one of the most documented genocides in history, victims of these mass rapes have often gone unheard. This is because there were no laws in place for courts to prosecute this type of crime during this period. Violent crimes would repeatedly occur without charges being brought forth to the perpetrators. If there was no established law to be broken a crime could be committed without recourse. The Holocaust has left a roadmap for the act of genocide. When international laws and humanitarian laws are not enforced with greater consequences for perpetrators globally they continue to commit these crimes.
The aftermath of the Holocaust, has also laid the groundwork to increase preventative measures for systematic rapes inflicted on women and children in civil conflicts. Since there are such deficiencies in the law, perpetrators do not fear any retribution for the sexually violent crimes they have committed. This was seen during the Rwandan Genocide in the early nineties, when thousands of women and children were brutally raped en masse. After the Rwandan genocide, the governing bodies of international law tried to confront and subsequently rectify their handling of these war criminals by creating a Tribunal. This Tribunal would deal specifically with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Rwandan genocide. However, the approach was inadequate as it lacked the ability to hold the perpetrators accountable. This missed an opportunity to set a precedent to deter mass rape and sexual violence in nations engaged in civil conflict. An example of this increased need can be seen with the ongoing sexual violence taking place in the current genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I have gathered and created a data report on the correlation of increased sexual violence and influx of rebel armies in certain provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These increases show that there is a lack of deterrence and enforcement in international law when it comes to perpetual sexual violence in these provinces. This could be influenced by the escalating numbers of rebel armies present in the Democratic Republic of Congo that shun international humanitarian law. Aggravated acts of sexual violence creates a need to deter war crimes of such magnitude. The rise of these armies in my literature review which explains the theory of why nations engaged in civil conflict continue to use mass rape and sexual violence as a successful weapon of war. This weapon of war is being used as a means to commit genocide, as seen in the Holocaust, Rwanda (1994) and currently in the DRC.
The increased need for deterrence of mass rapes and sexual violent crimes being committed should be apparent in human rights law and international law communities. However the initiatives taken both proactively with prevention as well as with the prosecution have not been strong enough to create substantial change. We must realize that it is as important to teach the lessons learned from genocides passed as it is to have the nations with the most influence succeed in pushing forward an increase in deterrence. This would make it impossible for perpetrators to commit these atrocities without being held accountable for their actions, whether direct or indirect. Instituting tougher measures on multiple ends of the judicial spectrum would consider both an increase in sentencing as well as greater rehabilitative initiatives for areas experiencing mass rapes and increased sexual violence during genocide. If deterrence is not increased, perpetrators will continue to commit these crimes against humanity.
My research will demonstrate how deficiencies in the law prevented adequate justice for the victims of the Rwandan Genocide. Combined with the data from the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda, it is found that lax retribution or rehabilitative initiatives promote reoccurrence rather than decreasing it. My findings ultimately reinforce what I had presumed. That perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide who were indicted as a result of the erected International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda were rarely ever tried. Many had died or fled while awaiting trial. Secondly, current perpetrators in the Democratic Republic of Congo are following the same scheme. Rebel groups and state actors have increased their roles in committing or sanctioning mass rapes and sexual violence in order to commit genocide, multiplying the number of affected women and children by the thousands each year without the fear of repercussions for the war crimes they have committed.
Two substantial questions which still go unanswered today are: If there was a international tribunal created to bring justice to the inhumane crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide, why have we not created one for the Democratic Republic of Congo? And why do we allow these crimes against humanity to continue in 2017? The answers to these questions lie ahead for the reader.
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