UN Women grant to examine international sexual violence prosecutions

OosterveldProfessor Valerie Oosterveld has been awarded a $37,000 grant by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

She is leading a team which aims to draw lessons from the prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence at an international criminal tribunal known as the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Special Court was created in 2002 by the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone to address serious crimes committed during the brutal armed conflict in that West African country in the 1990s. The Special Court closed in 2013.

“Widespread sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, was used as a weapon of war during Sierra Leone’s long civil war," explains Oosterveld.

"The Special Court for Sierra Leone issued groundbreaking convictions for this type of violence, becoming the first international criminal court to prosecute individuals for wartime sexual slavery and forced marriage. The goal of this project is to interview a wide range of people – including former court investigators, prosecutors, defence counsel, judges, legal officers and civil society members – to discover the decisions they made and the actions they took with respect to these crimes, before their experiences are lost in time,” she says. 

Oosterveld is working with former Western Law LL.M. student Fanny Leveau (’11), an expert in gender-sensitive international justice, and Wayne Jordash, a British lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in the international human rights and humanitarian law fields and a former defence counsel to the Special Court. They will publish their findings on the Special Court as a book and a series of articles, in order to disseminate the information to other international and domestic tribunals tasked with gender-related prosecutions of wartime crimes.