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Prosecutor v.Gacumbitsi: The New Definition for Prosecuting Rape Under International Law

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image of International Criminal Law Review

The Gacumbitsi judgement of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is the first appellate case to address the apparent contradiction in the prior jurisprudence of the ad hoc Tribunals on the definition of rape. The Trial Chamber in the Akayesu judgement defined rape as a physical invasion of a sexual nature under coercive circumstances, whereas the later Appeals Chamber judgment of Kunarac introduced the requirement of consent. As well as addressing the role of consent in defining and proving rape at trial, the Appeals Chamber in Gacumbitsi also considered appeals of fact on specific allegations of rape, providing guidance on establishing crime base and linkage evidence to hold superiors responsible for rape under individual and command responsibility theory. After setting out the developments in the case law on the definition of rape, the author considers the contribution of the Gacumbitsi judgement, and argues that the Akayesu approach is most consistent with the framework of international criminal law.

Affiliations: 1: B.A. (Hons.), Cambridge University, United Kingdom; LL.M., Harvard Law School, United States of America; Member of the New York State Bar; Special Assistant to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court


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