George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Sixty Years of Failing to Prosecute Sexual Crimes: From Raphaël Lemkin at Nuremberg to Lubanga at the International Criminal Court

by Douglas Irvin-Erickson

Publication Details MORE LESS

  • Published Date: August 15, 2017
  • Display Date: October 2, 2017
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillian
  • ISBN: 978-1137601162


The trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is widely acknowledged as a landmark case in international criminal law. While the defendant was convicted of war crimes, he was cleared of charges for acts consistent with sexual crimes by the trial chamber, disappointing observers and human rights advocates who widely considered him to have facilitated mass rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This chapter argues that the two primary reasons why the prosecution of rape and other sexual crimes failed in the case at the ICC were the same challenges to the prosecution of sexual crimes that Raphaël Lemkin identified when he urged his colleagues at Nuremberg to prosecute Nazi defendants for sexual crimes. The chapter pays particular attention to Lemkin’s insistence that prosecutors should present sexual crimes as integral to larger criminal programs, so that leaders can be held accountable in international criminal courts for acts of sexual crimes without having to prove a direct causal link between high-ranking defendants and the acts of sexual crimes committed by low-level perpetrators.

Other Contributors

Mary Michele Connellan, Christiane Fröhlich, Henri Myrttinen, James Snow, Anna Hedlund, and Nikki Marczak