Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice
Submission by the Global Justice Center to the ICC Prosecutor on the alleged abduction by Boko Haram of the Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria in April 2014
This Special Issue highlights the filing by the Global Justice Center before the ICC in April 2015 on the alleged abduction by Boko Haram of the Chibok schoolgirls.
The Global Justice Center’s submission to the ICC on the alleged Boko Haram’s abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls
In April 2015, on the one-year anniversary of the kidnapping of almost 300 Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria, the Global Justice Center (GJC) — a New York-based human rights organization that uses international law to promote strategic change and gender equality — launched a new project to address gender-based crimes, including abductions, by transnational militant movements with an Article 15 submission to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Given the ICC’s ongoing preliminary examination of the situation in Nigeria, GJC requested that the ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda expand her examination, which currently is limited to war crimes and crimes against humanity, to whether Boko Haram’s abduction of Christian children may constitute the genocidal crime of ’the forcible transfer of children’, as set forth in Article 2(e) of the Genocide Convention and Article 6(e)of the Rome Statute. The submission includes Annexes with supporting information from reports and other reliable sources.
Considering that abductions of women are strategically being used by groups like Boko Haram and ISIS, GJC’s new project looks to innovatively use international law, including the Genocide and Geneva Conventions and the customary laws of state responsibility to address the abductions of women and children, and other subsequent gender-based crimes including sexual slavery and forced pregnancy, and for full redress, including for the ICC to hold perpetrators accountable.
Ignoring genocide crimes directed at women and children is discriminatory in its enforcement of international law against human rights violations and international crimes. To this day, Christian schoolgirls who remain captive to the Boko Haram are being subjected to ongoing genocidal crimes, triggering a duty to suppress those crimes. Genocide is unique as it is only crime where the duties to prevent, suppress, and punish are explicit binding treaty obligations, breaches of the Convention are actionable before the ICJ, and, most importantly for women and children, all states are given the legal authority to bring situations of genocide to the responsible UN body, ie the Security Council, for action. Enforcement of the obligations of the global community with regard to genocide would provide a model for enforcement of these duties with respect to the three other crimes covered by the responsibility to protect: war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
According to GJC, the possible outcomes of its new project are as varied as the range of tools available and would open the doors to intervention and assistance by the international community, as well as relevant domestic and regional actors. This could include invoking states’ obligations to suppress or prevent in order to engage in concrete efforts to rescue abducted women and girls and combatting impunity by ensuring state and individual accountability, rehabilitation and reparation measures, both at the domestic and international level.
The need for prosecutions of systematic abduction, rape, forced marriage and conversion as genocide, eg in the cases of Christian girls by Boko Haram or of Yazidi women and girls by ISIS, was highlighted in August by GJC’s President in a New York Times Letter to the Editor. On December 17, 2015 GJC also submitted an open letter to ICC Prosecutor in support of the Free Yezidi Foundation and Yazda’s September 2015 Article 15 submission, which laid out how the ICC has jurisdiction over foreign fighters who are nationals of ICC States Parties.
GJC’s letter urges the Prosecutor to a preliminary examination into crimes committed by ISIS that fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction and to ensure that any such examination takes into account and integrates the specific gender dynamics of ISIS’s strategies and policies. GJC’s letter includes an annex which examines publically available information about crimes perpetrated against Yazidi women and girls and sets forth the crimes under the Rome Statute that are implicated by this information.
■ For additional resources, view the Women’s Initiatives’ and partners’ call for release of the abducted girls in Chibok, Nigeria here.