Rape as a Crime Under International Humanitarian Law
It is a pity that calamitous circumstances are needed to shock the public conscience into focusing on important, but neglected, areas of law, process and institutions. The more offensive the occurrence, the greater the pressure for rapid adjustment. Nazi atrocities, for example, led to the establishment of the Nuremberg Tribunal;1 the evolution of the concepts of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide; the shaping of the fourth Geneva Convention;2 and the birth of the human rights movement. The starvation of Somali children prompted the Security Council to apply chapter VII of the UN Charter to an essentially internal situation, bringing about a revolutionary change in our conception of the authority of the United Nations to enforce peace in such situations. There is nothing new in atrocities or starvation. What is new is the role of the media. Instant reporting from the field has resulted in rapid sensitization of public opinion, greatly reducing the time lapse between the perpetration of such tragedies and responses to them.
It took the repeated and massive atrocities in former Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia-Hercegovina, to persuade the Security Council that the commission of those atrocities constitutes a threat to international peace, and that the creation of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal would contribute to the restoration of peace. The Security Council therefore decided to establish such a tribunal under chapter VII (Resolutions 808 and 827).3 For the first time since the founding of the United Nations, the Security Council has become, at least for the moment,4 a major force for ensuring respect for international humanitarian law.____________________