Judicial Colloquium: ADJUDICATING SEXUAL VIOLENCE UNDER INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC LAW: The Case of The Democratic Republic of the Congo

October 28 - November 1, 2013

From 28 October to 1 November, a unique group of judges convened in The Netherlands to engage in judicial dialogue about how sexual violence can be effectively addressed through the courts.

Participants included judges from both civilian and military jurisdictions in the Democratic Republic of The Congo (DRC) as well as international judges from the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, International Criminal Court, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Special Court for Sierra Leone, and Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The judicial colloquium was a collaborative effort of three institutions: Physicians for Human Rights; the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation.

The principal aims of the colloquium were 1) to provide an opportunity for national and international judges to share experiences about adjudicating cases of sexual violence, 2) to discuss the international jurisprudence that has emerged around these crimes and its application at the domestic level, and 3) to establish a peer network that judges working on sexual violence cases can use for advice and support.

Thematic sessions were wide-ranging but pertinent to the important work being carried out by participants. Topics included not only jurisprudence from international criminal courts and tribunals, but also relevant Congolese law on sexual violence, the importance of forensic evidence in building cases against alleged perpetrators, the role of expert and witness testimony in sexual crime cases, and issues surrounding the independence and security of judges working in areas of ongoing conflict. Participants also had the opportunity to learn about the effects of vicarious trauma on judges who adjudicate crimes of sexual violence and to speak about their own experiences in this area.

A highlight of the colloquium was the visit of Dr. Denis Mukwege, the renowned Congolese gynecologist and founder of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, which has treated hundreds of rape victims in the eastern DRC. Dr. Mukwege was honored by the United Nations with the 2008 prize for human rights for his tireless efforts, and has been nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Mukwege spoke to the participating judges about the necessary partnership that must exist between judicial and medical communities in the DRC if rape and other forms of sexual violence are to be both punished and healed. The beneficiaries of such concerted action will be not only individual victims but also the larger Congolese society.

The final morning of the colloquium was devoted to a visit to the International Criminal Court, where Congolese judges had the opportunity to meet and hear about the work of international judges, prosecutors, the outreach office, and the Trust Fund for Victims.

The visit was followed by a reception at The Hague Institute for Global Justice, hosted by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Those in attendance heard both Congolese and international judges speak of the importance of the colloquium in strengthening their commitment to end impunity for crimes of sexual violence, to reach out to fellow judges who share their vision, and to partner with civil society groups when possible.

The Judicial Colloquium on Adjudicating Sexual Violence under International and Domestic Law was made possible by the support of the Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands, and the Rice Family Foundation.

Dr. Coleen Kivlahan leads a session on identifying and preserving forensic evidence for sexual violence.
Participants, organizers and donors of the colloquium, with two Congolese judges linked in by teleconference from Kinshasa



Judge Fatoumata Dembele Diarra (Mali), International Criminal Court

Justice Teresa Doherty (Northern Ireland), Special Court for Sierra Leone

Capitaine Kobondo Pibwe Serge (DRC), President of the Military Garrison Court, South Kivu

Judge Baudouin Basilimu Kipaka (DRC), Appeals Court of Gombé-Kinshasa, former President of the Tribunal de Grande Instance in South Kivu

Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua (DRC), International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Colonel Freddy Mukendi (DRC), Military High Court

Judge Gérard Niyungeko (Burundi), African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights

Judge Daniel Nsereko (Uganda), Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Judge Emmanuel Shamavu (DRC), President of the Appeals Court of Goma


Dr. Coleen Kivlahan, Senior Director, Health Care Affairs, Association of American Medical Colleges

Dr. Denis Mukwege, Founder and Medical Director, Panzi Hospital, Bukavu, DRC


Karen Naimer, Director of the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, Physicians for Human Rights

Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society, International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, Brandeis University

Catherine Cissé van den Muijsenbergh, Executive Director, Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation

Ties Schelfhout, Program and Finance Officer, Institute for Historical Justice and Society

Caroline Dauber, DRC Coordinator for Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, Physicians for Human Rights

Nelly Corbin, Legal Fellow, Physicians for Human Rights

Laurence Carrier-Desjardins, Office of the Prosecutor, Special Tribunal for Lebanon