Seelinger Helps Draft New ICC Policy on Gender Crimes

Faculty; Global; Research

Kim Thuy Seelinger, research associate professor at the Brown School, visiting professor at the School of Law, and director of the Center for Human Rights, Gender and Migration at the Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis, led the review and drafting process for the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor’s new policy on gender-based crimes.

The new policy, launched Dec. 4 at the United Nations during the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties annual meeting, focuses on the investigation and prosecution of gender-based violence that manifests as war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide.

“This is the first ICC policy to explicitly take a survivor-centered, trauma-informed approach to our investigation and prosecution work,” Seelinger said. “This is critical for the well-being of those we engage and also the quality of the evidence we put forward.”

The policy will have impact well beyond the International Criminal Court, Seelinger said.

“It will provide guidance to over 120 countries that have signed the Rome Statute, such as Canada, Colombia, Sierra Leone, Sweden and the United Kingdom — countries that co-hosted the launch event at the U.N.”

Panelists including Judge Belkis Izquierdo Torres, vice president of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Colombia, and Anna Sosonska, chief of Ukraine’s special prosecution unit for conflict-related sexual violence, said they plan to integrate the policy into their domestic work. Experts from civil society also will use the policy to guide their documentation and investigation work, she said.

“Now that we have a strong new policy, we can focus on operationalizing it, both in and beyond the Hague,” Seelinger said. “I will look to my faculty colleagues at WashU to help, given the wealth of dissemination and implementation expertise we have here.”

WashU’s Center for Human Rights, Gender and Migration facilitated the consultation process with external experts from July through September. In addition, 2023 WashU law graduate Max Karakul served as a research assistant. Now an intern at the International Criminal Court, he attended the launch event at the United Nations.

Seelinger is an expert on sexual and gender-based violence in the context of armed conflict and forced displacement. She is currently on leave from the university to work with the ICC, where she serves as the court’s first senior coordinator for gender-based crimes and crimes against or affecting children.

“I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Kim Thuy Seelinger for leading the policy review process, guided by Deputy Prosecutor Nazhat Shameem Khan,” said Karim A. A. Khan KC, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Seelinger previously served as Khan’s special adviser on sexual violence in conflict.

“This new policy represents a concrete commitment by the ICC to prioritize gender-based crimes, which are often underreported,” Seelinger said. “It’s an important step for the court to create a safe place for survivors to tell their stories.”

Seelinger also co-drafted and edited the ICC Prosecutor’s new Policy on Children, which launched Dec. 8 at the United Nations.