Kim Thuy Seelinger sat with survivors and legal partners in a courtroom in Dakar, Senegal, a few months ago to hear Judge Ougadeye Wafi’s decision on the appeal of former Chad dictator Hissène Habré: still guilty.
Although Habré was acquitted of personally raping Khadidja Hassan Zidane on procedural grounds, the other sexual violence convictions were upheld and hailed as a victory for international criminal justice. It was the first time a national court had used principles of universal jurisdiction to prosecute a former head of state for crimes of this nature.
“It was a good day for the victims,” said Seelinger, director of the Sexual Violence Program at the Human Rights Center, who worked with international legal experts on an amicus brief last year that helped to convict Habré of sexual slavery as a crime against humanity.
But our work is not done.
Our Sexual Violence Program is helping to forge a new era in war crimes prosecutions in national courts. We are now clarifying questions of international law in the trial of Thomas Kwoyelo, a former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander in Uganda who has been indicted on 93 counts, including various crimes against humanity. Kwoyelo’s trial is the first domestic war crimes case in Uganda, and the first LRA prosecution. Precedent set by these trials will help achieve accountability for sexual violence in future cases around the globe.
In honor of International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on Monday, help us ensure sexual violence in conflict is pursued as a crime and not just a collateral of war. Your tax-deductible gift of any size will impact international justice.
To meet our goals, we need to raise an additional $12,000 by June 30.