IGC Justice Impact Group: Launch of the Civil Society Declaration on Sexual Violence


Launched in The Hague in June 2019, the IGC Justice Impact Group’s first project on advancing understanding of all forms of sexual violence is making steady progress.

Although the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court’s founding treaty, was the first international criminal law instrument to expressly include crimes of sexual violence, since its adoption there has been limited accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. One of the many barriers is a lack of a clear definition of what makes violence ‘sexual’. This can create a disparity between how sexual violence is perceived and experienced by survivors and how it is adjudicated, as well as inconsistent jurisprudence.

The IGC Hague-based Impact Group’s project seeks to advance the Women's Initiative for Gender Justice (WIGJ) "Call it what it is" campaign. WIGJ recently issued the main outcome of the campaign: the Civil Society Declaration on Sexual Violence. The Declaration explains what may constitute an “act of sexual nature” and indicates when an act of sexual nature may become an “act of sexual violence”. It is a document that is firmly grounded in the lived experience of survivors and informed by a wide range of actors who are engaged firsthand in the field of sexual violence. More than 500 survivors, 525 survey respondents, 54 NGO campaign partners and over 30 expert reviewers contributed to the Declaration, making it a unique guidance document to better understand sexual violence.

The Declaration is available in English and in French and will soon be available in Spanish and Arabic.

Based on the Civil Society Declaration on sexual violence, the Call it what it is campaign will develop two more documents:

  1. International Criminal Law (ICL) Guidelines – The guidelines will explain when acts of sexual violence as set out in the Civil Society Declaration amount to international crimes, as well as practical elements to inform the international criminal prosecution of these acts; and

  2. Key Principles for Policymakers – a tool to implement the Civil Society Declaration for a wide array of policy makers around the world.

The three documents (the Civil Society Declaration, the ICL Guidelines and the Key Principles for Policy Makers) will together form The Hague Principles on Sexual Violence, to be launched at the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute session in The Hague in December 2019, with the support of the IGC Justice Impact Group.

(for the picture) From left to right: Onen David Ongwech (Programme Manager, Refugee Law Project), Fatou Bensouda (Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court), Melinda Reed (Executive Director, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice), Chris Dolan (Director, Refugee Law Project). 10 October 2019. Presentation of the Civil Society Declaration on Sexual Violence to States Representatives in The Hague