Summary of Hague ll (2011)

Organized By:
Center on Law and Globalization, a program of the University of Illinois College of Law and the American Bar Foundation; in cooperation with The Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Campus The Hague; Leiden University; The International Victimology Institute Tilburg (INTERVICT); the Department of Criminal Law, Tilburg Law School

Systematic Sexual Violence and Victims’ Rights brought together and worked to facilitate the development of a global network of activists, lawyers, journalists, court and government officials, nonprofit leaders, and scholars that seek to combat and remedy the systematic victimization of women and improve human rights and the rule of law in international settings. This event built on the inaugural conference convened in 2009, at which UN High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Judge Richard Goldstone, and others, called for new and intensified approaches in international criminal law to address violence against women.

For more information on the Program; Summary of Events; Press Releases and Media; and Presentations, Speeches and Resources please see below.

 Program Overview

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The Center and its partners convened the Second Hague Colloquium in April 2011 on systematic violence against women and victims’ rights. More than two hundred participants—field activists, researchers, judges and lawyers from international tribunals, international criminal lawyers—joined in this unique sharing of common interests. Leading researchers and activists reported on patterns of violence in Bosnia, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Darfur and Iraq. Judges, lawyers and observers reported on the uneven progress of international tribunals to prosecute and convict perpetrators for crimes of sexual violence. Others showed how the costs of violence to many victims continues for years of medical, psychological, social and community difficulties, leading to widespread depression, suicide and social isolation. The Trust Fund for Victims (International Criminal Court) reported on its many programs in Africa to provide reparations, medical interventions, counseling, jobs and re-building of communities. All agreed that research is fundamental to every facet of violence against women—predicting its onset, mapping its scope, demonstrating its long-term harms, and evaluating the effectiveness of post-conflict interventions.

 Summary of Events

 Reporters’ Overview Summary of the Second Hague Colloquium

Image to the left: Dr. John Hagan, Center on Law and Globalization Co-Director, discussing Government-Led Sexual Victimization and Torture in Darfur and Pre-Invasion Iraq at the Second Hague Colloquium at the Dutch Foreign Ministry (photo used with Permission)

Download a full version of the summary broken down by each session.

      The Second Hague Colloquium on Systematic Sexual Violence and Victims’ Rights brought together a diverse group of participants to tackle various problems related to prosecuting and to rooting out sexual violence.  As Dutch Ambassador for Human Rights, Lionel Veer noted at the Colloquium opening, sexual violence used to be hidden, but now it has become front page news throughout the world.  Despite this coverage, there are still many things that are not fully appreciated by members of the international community.  For instance, men are often the victims of sexual violence, yet even investigators of broad based sexual crime seem to be unaware of this.  Although men are often the victims of sexual crime, they are not always the perpetrators.  In many conflicts, men and women are abused by female perpetrators.  The Colloquium made clear that ongoing investigations into sexual crime need to account for all of these possibilities.
    What also became clear during the Colloquium was that more work needs to be done in bringing justice to the victims of sexual violence.  Most often, prosecutions are focused on the highest ranking officers involved in the crime.  However, those leaders are rarely the ones committing the actual violence.  The result is that while victims are brought in to testify against a commander that they never saw, their rapist is walking free down the very streets that they have to return home to.  It is no surprise that victims of sexual violence are not completely satisfied with this kind of procedural justice.
    However, procedural justice is not all that is required to make victims feel whole again.  Developing an adequate reparations system that addresses both collective and individual needs is paramount in helping these victims recover, as crafting one solution for all victims will necessarily leave many unsatisfied.  Interviewing as many victims as possible will help give courts and organizations a better picture of how to truly achieve justice for these victims.
      The Colloquium was also able to address the various causes of sexual violence.  Many speakers discussed the need for better research and methodologies, both before and after the violence, in order to fully understand the problem.  Without knowing how much sexual violence occurs in a country, and in what form, prior to an outbreak on a large scale, it is impossible to know fully how victims are affected.  Additionally, more research is needed into the underlying causes of large outbreaks of sexual violence.  By truly understanding these causes, better policies can be crafted to prevent such outbreaks in the future.
    Ultimately, this Colloquium was about hope.  In the two years since the first Colloquium, research and understanding into broad-based sexual violence has increased dramatically.  With the knowledge exchanged in the two days of the Colloquium, it is clear that the international community is working steadily to combat these atrocities, both before and after they occur. However, more informed responses are needed and can be strengthened by an increased knowledge of the causes and nature of this form of rare violence as well as legal responses to date to determine what works, what doesn’t, and why.
Ambassador Lionel Veer, Dutch Ambassador for Human Rights, Dutch Foreign Ministry, giving the Opening Remarks on the first day of the Colloquium (photo used by permission)
Summary by Andrew Lesko. Contributing Reporters: Andrew Lesko, Christina Lesko, Iris Haenen, Lorena Sosa, Marzena Jozwiak, Alphonse Muleefu, Matthew Bown


 Press Releases & Media

  • International Leaders Commence Second International Conference on Systematic Gender Based Violence

    April 12, 2011

“What used to be silent has become front page news,” This statement, by Lionel Veer, Ambassador for Human Rights, Dutch Foreign Ministry was among the opening remarks at a two-day conference,  Systematic Sexual Violence and Victims’ Rights, that took place in The Hague, The Netherlands, on April 7 & 8.  The conference began with Veer noting the increased visibility of crimes of gender-based violence.  However, in the two days that followed, scholars, legal practitioners, court officials, activists, and nonprofit leaders worked together,  acknowledging that while actual progress has been made, the issue of preventing and redressing gender-based violence faces  an uncertain and complex future. 

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Colloquium Planning Committee Members (from left to right) Christine Schwöbel, Rianne Letschert, Renée Römkens, W.J.M. van Genugten, Charlotte Ku, Carsten Stahn, Anne-Marie de Brouwer, Terence Halliday, and John Hagn with the Colloquium's Keynote Speakers, Elisabeth Rehn and Ambassador Lionel Veer (Photo use by Permission)


  • Elisabeth Rehn to Give Keynote Address at Conference in The Hague on April 7, 2011

    April 4, 2011

The Keynote and Welcoming Address will be given on the morning of April 7th by Elisabeth Rehn, Minister of State of Finland and the Chair of the Board of Directors at the Trust Fund for Victims of International Criminal Court. The Trust Fund for Victims was established in 2002 to assist victims and their families in cases being processed by the International Criminal Court. Rehn is an independent expert on crisis management and the role of women in the development of peace for the United Nations, governments and nonprofit organizations.

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  • Center to Convene World Experts on Systematic Sexual Violence and Victims' Rights

    March 30, 2011

Can we predict when systematic sexual violence will occur? In recent years has international criminal law expanded or contracted its ability to bring about charges of rape and sexual slavery on the grounds of crimes against humanity and genocide?  Does the political context in which mass sexual victimization arises affect the expression or severity of the violence? What kinds of support measures are available to victims of sexual violence in developing and transitioning countries?  These questions in addition to others related to the causes and responses to sexual violence will be addressed at the upcoming conference, Systematic Sexual Violence and Victims’ Rights.

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 Resources, Presentations & Speeches

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