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International Leaders Commence Second International Conference on Systematic Gender-Based Violence

April 14, 2011, Press releases

For Immediate Release

Contact:          Allison Lynch


Phone:             312.988.6548

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 Minister of State of Finland Elisabeth Rehn and Human Rights Ambassador Lionel Veer Urge the International Community to Mobilize Action and Support  of Victims

    The Hague, The Netherlands – April 12, 2011 – “What used to be silent has become front page news,” This statement, by Lionel Veer, Ambassador for Human Rights, Dutch Foreign Ministry was among the opening remarks at a two-day conference,  Systematic Sexual Violence and Victims’ Rights, that took place in The Hague, The Netherlands, on April 7 & 8.  The conference, organized by the Center on Law and Globalization of the American Bar Foundation and the University of Illinois College of Law in cooperation with the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University Campus/The Hague, The International Victimology Institute Tilburg (INTERVICT), and the Department of Criminal Law at Tilburg University, began with Veer noting the increased visibility of crimes of gender-based violence.  However, in the two days that followed, scholars, legal practitioners, court officials, activists, and nonprofit leaders worked together,  acknowledging that while actual progress has been made, the issue of preventing and redressing gender-based violence faces  an uncertain and complex future. Veer addressed the conference only a day after his Dutch government presented its new human rights agenda to Parliament; an agenda that emphasizes that no one body, including governments, their armed forces, or their citizens, can continue to deny this international crisis and the role that each must play in addressing and, redressing, crimes of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict situations.

 The keynote address was delivered by  Elisabeth Rehn, Minister of State of Finland and the Chair of the Board of Directors of  the Trust Fund for Victims of International Criminal Court. In her remarks, Rhen  recognized that strides that have been made in aiding victims of sexual violence, but focused on what has yet to be accomplished, and urged all members of the international community to take an active role in establishing justice, rebuilding broken societies, and preventing future abuses. In her address to the conference, Rehn presented a call to action to shift the current focus from the perpetrators of sexual violence to its survivors. She stated that international law and the justice it seeks should not speak only to those committing and coordinating acts of violence, but to the survivors of violence.

 Rehn emphasized  the mandate of the Rome Statute of 1998 that established the International Criminal Court and its focus on the rights of victims to have an active role in the justice process, including the right to seek reparations. The Trust Fund for Victims of the International Criminal Court, whose mission is to assist victims of crimes under the ICC jurisdiction, represents one of the latest mechanisms that are intended to fulfill the Rome Statute.  Rehn charged that those involved in administering justice: the court officials, lawyers, scholars and nonprofit leaders- must be able to recognize the complex issues inherent in the Trust Fund’s mission  in order to effectively assist the survivors of violence. To successfully develop this knowledge base, she called for more research to better understand the unique needs of each victim, and to assist international criminal tribunals in engaging with victims to give them a voice in the legal process, and in their own recovery.

An additional theme of Rehn’s keynote address, which became a motif throughout the two-day conference, was the imperative to engage more women in peace-making and conflict resolution, and she called for more men to become advocates for victims of sexual violence.

 Systematic Sexual Violence and Victims’ Rights is the second in a continuing series of international conferences that bring together scholars, practitioners, policy makers and journalists to examine and sexual violence as international crime.  The first conference, convened in 2009, addressed the interdisciplinary approaches to evidence-gathering and presentation of evidence in crimes of systematic sexual violence.

 About the Center on Law and Globalization
            The Center on Law and Globalization is a Partnership of the American Bar Foundation and the University of Illinois College of Law.  The Center brings together the top legal officials of international organizations, key journalists, and academic experts to understand behavioral and legal dimensions of critical global issues, to stimulate well-informed global policy choices, to advance empirical research on globalization and law and to advance the effective use of the law. To access the Center’s Smart Libraries – clustering the leading scholarship on globalization- visit 




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