Prosecuting Gendered Violence in International Law: The Paradox of Wartime Violence

Tariq Khan


By an examination of the judgments of the International Criminal Tribunals, this essay reflects upon the feminist discourse of rape as an instrument of genocide, which has been invoked to call for invervention in conflict zones. I argue that the construction in International law of sexual violence as a 'weapon' that'one side' picks up to harm the other, paradoxically makes the victims of violence largley invisible. This process of invisibility occursin international law when victims of wartime sexual violence, in order to have their experiences represented and recognized at trial, are expected to speak of the violence in a way that weaves fact into a community’s identity. International Criminal Tribunals offer a uniform narrative with distinct language, by which witnesses are permitted to testify to, their stories of violence. Consequently a victim’s individual memory is rendered invisible and transformed in international law as collective memory. This uniform narrative of rape fits well into the memory of collective suffering of a group, however it prevents nuanced understandings of wartime violence, found in the individual memory of victims, from being comprehended.

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