After the Nobel Peace Prize: Aligning justice, health and reparation for victims of conflict-related sexual violence


A doctor examines a patient at the Mother and Child Health Center during a visit by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict to Mogadishu, Somalia, on April 2, 2013. (AMISOM)

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize pair (Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad) provides the platform to intensify our efforts to address the consequences of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). There are inherently sensitive and complex issues surrounding sexual violence. Often victims face stigma from their community and family, causing what can be debilitating injuries and at times diminishing their quality of life through the physical and psychological consequences as a result of the sexual violence. This harm is only compounded by inadequate healthcare facilitates and insufficiently trained healthcare personnel, making victims more vulnerable. There are a diverse amount of efforts to address CRSV, from humanitarian and healthcare workers, to more broadly international organisations and to an extent the International Criminal Court in cases such as Ongwen. With Friday marking International Day of the Girl it is also worth highlighting the impact of CRSV on children, on whom such violence can have a devastating impact on their physical (trauma to genital, urinary retention and fistulas) and mental health with long term consequences.

While 2014 saw the efforts by states and celebrities to act to end sexual violence and promote the investigation and prosecution of such crimes, greater efforts need to be made to deliver assistance and reparations to such victims. Awarding the peace prize to Dr Mukwege is an important recognition of the work he has done for decades in providing assistance to victims of CRSV. Humanitarian organisations such as the ICRC and MSF have previously been awarded the peace prize. Yet this year’s acknowledgement highlights the work of an individual medic and a victim/advocate, putting human faces and personal narratives to conflict-related sexual violence. The specificity of this joint award to Nadia Murad, a victim of CRSV and Dr Denis Mukwege, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who is a human rights activist focusing on conflict-related sexual violence, confers a unique message: sexual and reproductive violence in all its forms demands an inclusion of vital actors in navigating solutions to CRSV. Through the healthcare lens, sexual violence may be visualised more comprehensively with enhanced understandings of physical and psycho-social consequences to the general public and legal community.

The timely recognition fittingly appreciates healthcare and humanitarian workers who are quietly enduring continuing security risks. The murder of 25-year-old ICRC midwives Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa and Hauwa Mohammed Liman in Nigeria serve as a reminder of how healthcare workers have increasingly become targets and special protections in International Humanitarian Law are being breached without regard. Furthermore, deliberately targeting obstetric and midwifery care, which provides women-centred care in conflict/post-conflict settings, could be interpreted as a form of gender and sexual-based harm that impacts communities and potentially intergenerational wellbeing and health. Yet, victims who are healthcare professionals receive less attention. The reasons are multi-faceted, but may be partially attributed to the perceived risks they tolerate to deliver life-altering medical care (bound by ethical duties), which has been echoed by the legal community’s record on pursing justice with no successful convictions for these crimes under international humanitarian law. These risks could be minimised by a stronger abhorrence by the international community and reflection on the value of medical care in terms of minimising the effect of conflict on health as well as their frontline expertise in identifying victims and appropriate remedies. The ICRC has been promoting the immunity from attack of healthcare and humanitarian workers through its #NotaTarget social media engagement.

Moving beyond assistance to reparations

There is also an important role for healthcare and humanitarian workers to contribute to shaping long-term solutions for victims of CRSV, such as reparations. Reparations are measures intended to acknowledge and alleviate the harm suffered by victims, but ultimately they are the responsibility of the state through a dedicated budget-line. There is an emerging practice at the international level for reparations for CRSV, including the Nairobi Declaration as well as state practice in Kosovo. After the collapse of the Bemba case where there was potential for innovating reparations to victims of CRSV, Court-ordered reparations are instead going to be provided as short term assistance.

For reparations for conflict-related sexual violence we have to look beyond just compensation, which can be useful, to trying to comprehensively remedy victims’ harm. This includes adequate and appropriate healthcare services for victims, both in the short term to mitigate injuries or complications becoming any worse, as well as in the medium and long term where victims’ needs and health can deteriorate over time. It also requires community socialisation to educate society on CRSV and not to stigmatise victims, as well as efforts to reintegrate the victims themselves so that they have opportunities to rebuild their lives and lead a dignified life. This is part of the work that Dr Mukwege has been doing through the City of Joy in Bukavu, DRC, but this requires more state engagement that such centres are not limited to single localities, instead part of a state funded nationwide programme. This can be difficult in countries during and emerging from conflict, needing the support and attention of the international community.

On receipt of this accolade, Dr Mukwege has highlighted the need for reparations for victims of sexual violence. He hopes, ’to draw a red line against the use of rape in armed conflict.’ Aligning these two aims is the reparation pillar of guaranteeing non-repetition of such violations. This Noble Peace Prize honours the dedication of medics and humanitarian workers such as Dr Mukwege, as well as the nature of their work which focuses on repairs beyond the legal and on a practical level. Therefore, to an extent the award represents an international acknowledgement of victims of conflict-related sexual violence and resultant harms. In a way this award can be seen as a form of symbolic reparation in acknowledging the wrongfulness of sexual violence, and to an extent the need for the international community to take more responsibility in its prevention and remedy.



Introducing Dr. Sunneva Gilmore

20181017_091322It is our great pleasure to introduce our new IntLawGrrls contributor Dr. Sunneva Gilmore!

Dr. Gilmore is an Obstetrician and Gynaecological Registrar in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Northern Ireland. She is currently studying a PhD on ‘A Medico-Legal Approach to Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence’ in the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast. Her research includes fieldwork in Colombia, Uganda, and South Sudan and is part of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project ‘Reparations, Responsibility and Victimhood in Transitional Societies‘. Along with colleagues in the Queen’s Human Rights Centre she contributed to an amicus curiae in the Prosecutor v Jean-Pierre Bemba case at the International Criminal Court on reparations for sexual violence.

Heartfelt welcome!

25 Years of Prominent Women in International Law

2018 marks the 25th year that the Women in International Law Interest Group (“WILIG”) of the American Society of International Law has awarded the Prominent Women in International Law Award.

Over the years, this blog has made many remarkable efforts to ameliorate the lack of history and documentation surrounding the contributions of women to the field international law. Postings highlighting these contributions have sought to raise the profile of the role of women prosecutors at the Nuremburg and Tokyo Tribunals, and of women leaders in academic or government circles. Indeed, IntLawGrrls’ founding editors requested that bloggers identify an international law “foremother,” explicitly highlighting women whose achievements may have been chronically under-appreciated.

WILIG leadership has been pondering similar questions about how to best recognize the role of women within the evolution of international law. As we look backward to document the history of the PWIL award at this milestone, we simultaneously look forward, to contemplate what we hope women will accomplish in the field of international law in the years to come.

Before reporting what we’ve learned about the award, a threshold question:

How did WILIG originate?

Like most of the interest groups at ASIL, as I’ve learned from conversations with this interest group’s founders, WILIG evolved through an organic process. According to Boston Law Professor Emerita Cynthia Lichtenstein, the concept originated at the ASIL Annual Meeting in Boston in 1987. There, Lichtenstein and her colleague, Cleveland-Marshall Law Professor Jane Picker, witnessed a familiar phenomenon: Women’s voices were being marginalized by some of the male voices in the room. Acutely aware of this dynamic, and seeking simply to create a conversation, Lichtenstein made a sign announced a “Gathering for Women in International Law.” She reflects:

“I posted my little sign someplace in the meeting hotel and I got six women.”

Though only six women showed up at that first meeting, word got around. By 1988, the group had formalized as an ASIL interest group that counted 141 members.

Georgetown Law Professor Edith Brown Weiss, the first woman to serve a full term as ASIL President, recalls, “When I first became active with ASIL, I was routinely the only woman in the room, and felt strongly that we should be encouraging young women in IL.” WILIG was part of this encouragement.

v leary indexAnother notable foremother of WILIG was Professor Virginia Leary, whom IntLawGrrls honored at the time of her death, at the age of 82, in Geneva in 2009. The first chair of WILIG, in 1988, Leary was a professor at Buffalo Law and California-Hastings Law, and served as US delegate to the International Labour Organization.

This post must also acknowledge the role of Wellesley Professor evansAlona Evans in paving the way for the birth of WILIG. Evans was the first woman to be elected ASIL President, in 1980, but she only served for several weeks because of her sudden passing. (Prior IntLawGrrls posts here and here.)

The genesis of the Prominent Women in International Law Award appears to have arisen as a solution to a problem that two former WILIG co-chairs Laura Bocalandro and Marcia Wiss observed years ago: a dearth of women on ASIL annual meeting panels. ASIL has worked to overcome this deficit (see 3d comment here), but elsewhere in our field, the phenomenon remains. A Tumbler site All Male Panels is dedicated to shining a light on the problem. IntLawGrrls contributor Nienke Grossman recently highlighted the phenomenon of “Manels” here, and IntLawGrrls contributor Karen Alter recently reminded readers to list their expertise, since, of course, Women and People of Color Also Know Stuff.

Years ago, however, WILIG didn’t yet have the internet to counter the misperception that there was a dearth of qualified women authorities on international law. As one effort to set the record straight, they created the an award designed to call attention to highly qualified women practicing, teaching, and creating international law; that is, the:

Prominent Women in International Law Award

Over the years, the process and means by which the PWIL Award has been given has shifted.  Initially, Wiss explained, the award was given in an ad-hoc manner. As many as four people received the award in a given year at a modest ceremony at Tillar House, with Marcia’s tongue-in-cheek introduction reminding the audience that in granting this award, “there exists at least one more qualified women who is a recognized authority on international law.”

IMG_0267The humble beginnings of the award are also reflected by the simple, yet practical gift that WILIG offered its awardees for many years: a WILIG coffee cup. Many of the esteemed, powerful, and influential cohort of awardees continue to use their WILIG mugs with utilitarian pride. As Wiss remarked, “We all have jobs where we require coffee cups.” For many, this item served as a reminder that none of the awardees arrived at their prominence without hard work, and in some cases, long nights fueled by caffeine.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, as PWIL recipients shaped the field of international law, the award gained increased prestige. Brown Weiss shared that what is most impressive regarding WILIG’s growth is its spontaneity — fueled by the need women have felt to seek support and mentorship from one another in their professional lives. Wiss explained, “We were prescient when we gave these awards. Maybe the award played a role in all that the awardees accomplished.” This sentiment reinforces one of the goals that my co-chair Tracy Roosevelt and I felt was most important as we developed a public nomination process for the award on the occasion of the 25th anniversary: to highlight the work of women who are already very prominent, but also to draw attention to those women whose accomplishments merit further recognition through this prestigious award. In this way, the award foretold the amplification strategy generated by women staffers in the Obama White House, who repeated key insights made by other women and attributed them to their rightful authors, forcing the largely male staff to attribute the contributions of women to women who had voiced them, and also preventing them from claiming these ideas as their own.

Like much of women’s her-story, some chapters of WILIG’s evolution have been lost along the way.  ASIL, at the 2018 annual meeting, took the welcome step of recognizing these losses through a resolution granting posthumous membership to two women, Jane Addams and Belva Ann Lockwood, both of whom were previously denied membership in the Society.

I welcome your contributions, reflections, and insights in the comments section as WILIG members work together to round out the stories that make up WILIG, and to shed light on the stories of international law foremothers whose contributions have not – yet – been adequately recognized.

A complete list of the awardees of the Prominent Women in International Law Award is available here.


A History: ASIL’s Prominent Women in International Law Award, 1993-present

The WILIG Prominent Women in International Law Award honors those who have advanced women, gender, and women’s rights in international law.  Since 1993, the American Society of International Law’s Women in International Law Interest Group has selected awardees who:

  • Employ international law to advance women and women’s rights — awardees need not be attorneys, though most are;
  • Break through glass ceilings for women in international law;
  • Promote women and women’s voices in the field;
  • Contribute substantively to advancing, researching, advocating for, or promoting women’s rights and/or gender justice;
  • Are considered prominent in the field of international law – or whose accomplishments merit further recognition through this prestigious award.

The founders of this award aimed to highlight the accomplishments of women in international law, to demand recognition for their work, and to amplify their demands for women’s rights and gender justice.  Thanks to IntLawGrrls, this cohort of talented legal minds now have a home in cyberspace:

Awardees: Prominent Women in International Law Award

2018: I. Maxine Marcus, Director, Transitional Justice Institute,Institute for International Criminal Investigations

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2017:  Judge Rosemary Barkett, Judge, Iran-United States Claims Tribunal

Image of Judge Rosemary Barkett

2016:   Elizabeth Andersen, Executive Director, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative

Betsy Andersen staff page

2015:   Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO, New America Foundation

Image of Anne-Marie Slaughter President and CEO, New American Foundation


Judge Joan Donoghue, International Court of Justice

Judge Julia Sebutinde, International Court of Justice

Judge Xue Hanqin, International Court of Justice

2013:   Diane Marie Amann, University of Georgia School of Law

Image of Diane Marie Amann, University of Georgia School of Law

2012:   Mireille Delmas-Marty, Chair of Comparative Legal Studies and Internationalization of Law at College de France

Image of Mireille Delmas-Marty, University of Georgia School of Law

2011:   Lucy Reed, Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Former President, ASIL

Image of Lucy Reed, Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

2010:   Dinah Shelton, Commissioner, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Professor, George Washington University Law School


2009:   Unity Dow, Justice, High Court of Botswana

Image of Unity Dow, Justice, High Court of Botswana

2008:   Graciela Dixon, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Panama

Image of Graciela Dixon, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Panama

2007:   Taghreed Hikmat, Judge, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Image of Judge Taghreed Hikmat, Judge Imternational Crimnal Tribunal for Rwanda





2006:   Rosalyn Higgins, President, International Court of Justice

Image of Rosalyn Higgins, President, International Court of Justice


Regan Ralph, Executive Director, Fund for Global Human Rights

Kelly D. Askin, Senior Legal Officer for International Justice, Open Society Justice Initiative

Lea Browning, President, W.E.A.R.E. for Human Rights

2004:   Cecelia Medina, Judge, Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Image of Judge Cecelia Medina, Judge Inter-American Court of Human Rights


Hauwa Ibrahim, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow, American University Washington College of Law; Defense Counsel to Nigerian defendant Amina Lawal

Sujata V. Manohar, Member, National Human Rights Commission of India; Former Judge, Supreme Court of India


Patricia Wald, Former Judge, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Marcia A. Wiss, Partner, Hogan & Hartson

2000:   Ruth Lapidoth, Professor, Hebrew University Faculty of Law

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1999:   Patricia Viseur Sellers, Legal Advisor for Gender Related Crimes and Senior Acting Trial Attorney in the Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda

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Lea Browning, Hogan & Hartson

Sujata V. Manoha Director, International Centre for Ethnic Studies

Ricki Helfer, Chair, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Sonia Picado, Ambassador of Costa Rica to the United States


Patricia Schroeder, Member, U.S. House of Representatives

Geraldine A. Ferraro, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission

Edith   B. Weiss, President, American Society of International Law; and Professor, Georgetown University Law Center

Diane  P. Wood, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit


Cynthia C. Lichtenstein, Professor, Boston College of Law

Laura Bocalandro, Inter-American Development Bank

Rita E. Hauser, President, The Hauser Foundation

Arvonne S. Fraser, U.S. Representative, UN Commission on the Status of Women


Jamie  S. Gorelick, General Counsel, U. S. Department of Defense

Rosalyn Higgins, Professor, London School of Economics

Madeleine E. Wall, Group Director, Legal Services Cable & Wireless PLC


Charlene Barshefsky, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative

Carol   F. Lee, General Counsel, Export-Import Bank of the United States

Elizabeth R. Rindskopf, General Counsel, Central Intelligence Agency

A history of the Prominent Women in International Law Award and of the Women in International Law Interest Group of ASIL is available here.

Professional affiliations listed here reflect those that were current at the time the award was granted.  WILIG welcomes updates or corrections to this list, as some of the awardees were unavailable for comment.

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A Posthuman Feminist Approach to Mars


Captured the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA)

Feminists must found a constitution for Mars, notes Keina Yoshida in her fascinating recent post. If we leave Mars to the founding fathers it will become the domain of the super wealthy elite white men of techno-mediated capitalism––the Musks, the Zuckerbergs and the Trumps. Human space exploration will follow the same, masculine, humanist blueprint of domination on Earth and Mars will be exploited for its natural resources, just like Earth. Yoshida thus asks:


… what then would a founding feminist constitution look like? How would it guarantee foundation against what bell hooks has termed the ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’? Is it a democracy to come? Whose work should we draw upon to inform this constitution? … Who will protect their rights in Mars?

Yoshida answers her own question: “The feminists.”

Feminists are indeed ideally positioned to be able to tackle this issue. Environmental protection is core here but the problem does not lie with these founding fathers alone but with the entire foundations of dominant thought. Feminist gender theorists are central to challenging these dominant accounts of knowledge. Feminist posthumanism is one frame through which these challenges can be made.[1]

Continue reading

Introducing Emily Jones

Emily Jones

It is our great pleasure to introduce our new IntLawGrrls contributor Emily Jones!

Emily is a feminist international lawyer working as a Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex. Emily’s work focuses on: military technologies including autonomous weapons systems and human enhancement technologies, international legal personality, feminist and queer methodologies, the granting of legal personality to the environment and the interplays between capitalism, labour, technology and the law.

Emily is on the Coordinating Committee of the European Society of International Law Interest Group on Feminism and International Law as well as a Research Affiliate at Autonomy, a think tank focusing on the changing reality of work. Emily recently acted as co-editor for a Special Issue for the Australian Feminist Law Journal on ‘Gender, War and Technology: Peace and Armed Conflict in the 21st Century,’ which was published in August 2018.

Before joining Essex, Emily taught at SOAS, University of London for a number ofyears, where she also did her PhD. She was a Visiting Fellow at Sciences Po Law School, Paris in 2015. Prior to entering academia, Emily worked for various NGO’s at both a domestic (UK) and international level, where she specialised in the human rights of women.

Heartfelt welcome!

Work On! ASIL-Southeast Junior Scholar Workshop

Work On! is an occasional item about workshops, roundtables, and other fora that do not necessarily include publication:

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A call for applications has been made by the American Society of International Law, the ASIL-Southeast Interest Group and Washington and Lee School of Law for the second ASIL-Southeast Junior Scholar Workshop, which will be held at the Washington and Lee School of Law on May 13, 2019. The deadline for applications is January 7, 2019. Details here.