August 14, 2001
Justice Carla Del Ponte
Office of the Prosecutor
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
Dear Justice Del Ponte:
This letter is regarding the urgent need to include charges of sexual violence in the indictment against Slobodan Milosevic in Case No. IT-99-37-I.
We, the undersigned, are a group of individuals and organizations deeply concerned about ending impunity for crimes against women in armed conflict. We have come together to ensure that crimes of sexual violence are included in the indictment against Mr. Milosevic.
We would like to congratulate you on the indictment against and detention of Mr. Milosevic. Your work on this case is an historic opportunity to establish more accountability for violations of international criminal law. It is also an opportunity to provide some justice to the victims of gender crimes. As you know, rape, sexual enslavement, forced pregnancy and other forms of sexual violence figured prominently in the wars in the former Yugoslavia . Members of our group deal on a daily basis with victims of sexual violence in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina , Croatia , Rwanda , and elsewhere. We have seen first-hand the devastating effects of sexual violence in war for the victims and the community.
Historically, crimes against women have been underprosecuted because of the mistaken belief that these crimes are not as serious as crimes that occur primarily to men. We believe that this denial of equal access to justice for women is unacceptable. The cases at the ICTY and ICTR such as the Prosecutor v. Akayesu, and the Prosecutor v. Kunaracet al., have gone a long way in changing this. However, the case against Mr. Milosevic, due to its importance, will greatly influence the perceived willingness to enforce international criminal law. Prosecuting Mr. Milosevic for crimes of sexual violence would send out a powerful signal to would-be perpetrators that crimes such as widespread or systematic rape and forced pregnancy are considered serious crimes by the international community and will be prosecuted diligently. The failure to prosecute him for such crimes, on the other hand, would convey a damaging message that sexual violence is not considered equal in gravity to other war crimes and crimes against humanity.
As Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY, you are in a position to ensure that Mr. Milosevic is held accountable for the horrible crimes of sexual violence which he allowed and encouraged to be committed as part of his war strategy. Firstly, there is sufficient evidence of sexual violence crimes committed by troops under Mr. Milosevic?s authority or with Milosevic?s countenance in Kosovo , Bosnia - Herzegovina , and Croatia . Secondly, the Tribunal?s Statute and jurisprudence provide strong authority for charging rape, sexual torture, sexual enslavement, forced pregnancy, and other forms of sexual violence. We know that you are well aware of the necessity of ending impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence. In sum, you have the ability, the authority and the duty to charge Mr. Milosevic with sexual violence crimes.
For these reasons, we would like to offer our assistance to ensure that charges of sexual violence are included in the indictment against Mr. Milosevic. We have contacts with groups working on location in the former Yugoslavia with access to evidence. We invite you to contact us for further details. Our contact persons are Barbara Bedont, Beate Siegler, medica mondiale.
The victims of these crimes deserve justice. Their right to redress for the egregious crimes they suffered must not be overlooked. Our group is committed to ensuring that this does not happen, and will continue to monitor the case.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Coordinator, Coalition for Women?s Rights in Armed Conflict Situations
Signed on behalf of
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia