On August 23, 2008, the Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations joined women, survivors and human rights groups in the former Yugoslavia, the U.S., Canada, and around the world, in a joint letter to the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY Serge Brammertz, urging the amendment of the indictment against Radovan Karadzic to include charges of rape and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against women by Bosnian Serb forces under Karadzic's command.
A letter was sent to Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte on August 14, 2001, regarding the urgent need to include charges of sexual violence in the indictment against Slobodan Milosevic at the ICTY. Over 30 international women?s groups and individuals signed the letter and in October 2001, they applauded the inclusion of charges of sexual violence in the indictment by Prosecutor Del Ponte.
In December 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) sentenced the local commander of the Croatian defence council, a Bosnian Croat named Furundzija, to ten years imprisonment for the confinement and repeated rape of a Muslim woman by his subordinates. Furundzija was found guilty as a co-perpetrator of torture and of aiding and abetting the perpetration of an 'outrage on personal dignity, including rape against the victim, ("Witness A").
From the perspective of women's rights, the conviction of Furundzija, in particular his conviction for rape as a form of torture, is a positive step. Unfortunately, however, the case sets a very troublesome procedural precedent for the treatment of victims of sexual violence during the criminal trial process.
When the Furundzija trial was completed in June 1998, Furundzija brought a motion to set aside the evidence of Witness "A", or alternatively for a retrial, on the basis that he had been prejudiced by the non-disclosure of Witness A's rape counselling records. The Trial Chamber allowed the motion and ordered the disclosure of any documents relating to the "medical, psychological or psychiatric treatment or counselling received by Witness A after May 1993". In addition, the Trial Chamber ordered the further cross-examination of all of the Prosecution's witnesses, including Witness "A", with respect to these documents. This order was affirmed on appeal. This disclosure order was extremely broad and invasive and, in the Coalition's view, was profoundly insensitive to the experiences of Witness "A" and the sexual stereotypes which often motivate such requests for disclosure.
Before the re-opening of the Trial and the re-examination of Witness "A" on her rape counselling and other confidential records, the Coalition intervened and filed an amicus curiae brief on 5 November 1998, requesting that the Trial Chamber reconsider and rescind its disclosure order having regard to the right of the witness to equality, privacy, security of the person, and witness protection. The Trial Chamber re-opened the trial before reading the amicus and refused to explicitly acknowledge the substance of the amicus in its decision.
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia