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Intent to File on Forced Pregnancy - The Prosecutor v. Dominic Ongwen

Introduction

In response to the Appeals Chamber’s order, we respectfully seek leave to file amicus curiae observations on the Rome Statute’s definition of ‘forced pregnancy’, noting that this is the Appeals Chamber’s first opportunity to interpret this crime.

Expertise

Dr Rosemary Grey (lecturer, Sydney University Law School) is an expert in gender issues in international criminal law. Her publications include 13 peer-reviewed journal articles and her monograph Prosecuting Sexual and Gender-based Crimes at the International Criminal Court (Cambridge University Press, 2019). From 8 June to 8 September 2015, she worked with the ICC Office of the Prosecutor through the Internship and Visiting Professional Programme, where she assisted with legal research on topics including forced pregnancy. Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WICJ) is an international women’s human rights NGO advocating for accountability for sexual and gender-based crimes through the ICC’s work, including with conflict affected communities in Uganda, since 2004. It is the successor of the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice (1997-2003) that brought together over 300 women’s human rights advocates and organizations in the Rome Statute negotiations. Global Justice Center (GJC) is an international NGO advocating for justice and accountability for sexual and gender-based violence and violations of reproductive autonomy in situations including Syria, Myanmar, and others. Its 2018 report, Beyond Killing: Gender, Genocide, & Obligations Under International Law, was the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive gender analysis of the crime of, and international legal obligations surrounding, genocide. Amnesty International (AI) is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights to be respected and protected, with over 50 years’ experience documenting and campaigning against human rights violations around the world.

First proposed argument: Irrelevance of national law

Art. 7(2)(f) of the Rome Statute states: ‘“Forced pregnancy” means the unlawful confinement of a woman forcibly made pregnant, with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of any population or carrying out other grave violations of international law. This definition shall not in any way be interpreted as affecting national laws relating to pregnancy.’ The Trial Chamber stated that the final sentence of Art. 7(2)(f) ‘does not add a new element to the offence – and is thus not reproduced in the Elements of Crimes – but allays the concern that criminalising forced pregnancy may be seen as legalising abortion. Mr Ongwen appears to argue that the Trial Chamber erred by interpreting the crime of ‘forced pregnancy’ without analysis of abortion laws in the state where the crimes occurred (Uganda). That argument is incorrect. National laws on abortion have no bearing on the Rome Statute’s definition of ‘forced pregnancy’. The second sentence of Art. 7(2)(f) does not make the ICC’s jurisdiction over ‘forced pregnancy’ dependent on national legislation, nor create an element of the crime. It simply affirms that the legality of the relevant conduct under national law is distinct from its legality under international law. This is true of all crimes in the Rome Statute, but was made explicit for forced pregnancy in order to satisfy states who were concerned that defining forced pregnancy as a crime in the Rome Statute would affect their legal ability to regulate abortion under national law. Thus, regardless of whether conduct amounting to ‘forced pregnancy’ is consistent with national law, an individual who commits such conduct could be prosecuted for ‘forced pregnancy’ as a war crime and/or crime against humanity under the Rome Statute (if the contextual elements for were met, and subject to the ICC’s jurisdiction and admissibility rules). Victims in states with strict abortion laws do not enjoy lesser protections under the Rome Statute than those in states with more liberal abortion laws.

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Tags: Abortion, International Criminal Court, Legal Brief