News Center for Human Rights, Gender & Migration Violence & Abuse

Center director helps International Criminal Court Prosecutor launch policies on gender-based crimes and children at the United Nations

Written by Max Karakul, School of Law 2023 graduate, Washington University in St. Louis

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) recently launched its new Policy on Gender-based Crimes and Policy on Children at the 22nd Assembly of States Parties at the United Nations in New York City. The ICC is responsible for prosecuting serious violations of international criminal law including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. These crimes may be perpetrated on the basis of gender. They may also target or specifically affect children. The revised policies demonstrate the Office of the Prosecutor’s commitment to an intersectional, survivor-centered approach to the investigation and prosecution of these crimes.

December 4, 2023 launch of the new ICC Policy on Gender-based crimes

Professor Kim Thuy Seelinger, director of the Center for Human Rights, Gender and Migration at Washington University in St. Louis and visiting professor at the School of Law, led the drafting process for both policies. She previously served as the Prosecutor’s Special Adviser on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Seelinger is currently on academic leave to serve as the Prosecutor’s first Senior Coordinator for Gender-based Crimes and Crimes Against Children. Max Karakul, a 2023 graduate of the School of Law and current intern at the ICC, helped edit the policies with center support.

ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC, center, is joined by Karakul and Seelinger at the launch of the Policy on Gender-based Crimes

In presenting the new Policy on Gender-based Crimes, Seelinger explained, “We wanted to stress in this policy that we have to do a fulsome gender analysis [and] that analysis has to be intersectional in its approach… This will help us understand what the meaning of [a perpetrator’s] actions are and how we can fully and meaningfully characterize those actions.”

The drafting process involved extensive consultations with more than 186 experts from more than 30 States and territories around the world. The center supported consultation sessions with experts from Latin America, the Middle East & North Africa, Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa. As Professor Seelinger noted during her remarks at the launch of the Policy on Gender-based Crimes, “[W]e were intent on being inclusive in terms of what we could learn from national systems. . . we want to continue this exchange going forward.” The result of this exchange are policies that not only reflect experience from many parts of the world, but are also “living documents” that will continue to evolve.

The next step is putting the policies into practice. Karim A.A. Khan KC, the ICC Prosecutor, explained that the policies show the Court’s “strategic goal to enhance our policy framework in thematic areas and to be a source of expertise in international criminal justice. . . we aspire to promote the exchange of lessons learned and best practices from local and international accountability efforts.” ICC Policies are widely adopted in national legal systems around the world. At the launch event, the Vice President of the Colombia’s transitional justice court, Judge Belkis Izquierdo Torres, and the head of Ukraine’s prosecution unit focused on sexual violence, Anna Sonsonka, confirmed that they will incorporate the new Policy on Gender-based Crimes in their institutions.

Center Director, Kim Thuy Seelinger, introduces the ICC Prosecutor’s new Policy on Gender-based Crimes at the United Nations

Three days after the launch of the Policy on Gender-based Crimes, the ICC Prosecutor released the new Policy on Children with his Special Adviser, Véronique Aubert. Seelinger was the primary editor of the Children’s Policy and the center facilitated its review and revision process.

Seelinger is now charged with guiding implementation of both documents across the ICC Office of the Prosecutor. “It was a great honor to develop these two critical policies this past year,” Seelinger notes. “I’m now looking forward to really giving these policies legs in 2024. Implementation is the name of the game. I’m hoping some WashU colleagues will help out – I think they know who they are.”

Read the Policy on Gender-based Crimes

Read the Policy on Children