‘When We Wanted to Talk About Rape’: Silencing Sexual Violence at the Special Court for Sierra Leone

Posted: 19 May 2009

See all articles by Michelle Staggs Kelsall

Michelle Staggs Kelsall

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Shanee Stepakoff

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: December 2007

Abstract

This article explores the legal and psychological ramifications arising from the exclusion of evidence of sexual violence during the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) case at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Using empirical findings from post-trial interviews conducted with the ten victim-witnesses who were originally to testify, we juxtapose what the Special Court allowed the women to say, and what the women themselves wanted to say. From a legal perspective, we then critique the Trial Chamber's reasons for excluding the evidence and question the legal bases upon which the women were silenced, arguing that wider and wider circles of the women's experience were removed from the Court's records despite there being ample authority at an international level to support inclusion. We further look at the gendered biases in international criminal law and how expedience and efficiency usurped the significance of prosecuting crimes of sexual violence in this instance. From a psychological perspective, we discuss the consequences that the act of silencing had for the witnesses, and argue that a more emotionally sensitive understanding of the Court's notion of ‘protection’ is required.

Suggested Citation

Kelsall, Michelle Staggs and Stepakoff, Shanee, ‘When We Wanted to Talk About Rape’: Silencing Sexual Violence at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (December 2007). The International Journal of Transitional Justice, Vol. 1, Issue 3, pp. 355-374, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1405107 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ijtj/ijm034

Michelle Staggs Kelsall (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Shanee Stepakoff

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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