International Criminal Liability in the Age of Social Media: Facebook's Role in Myanmar

By Isabella Banks

The New York Times reported disturbing details of a systematic campaign led by Myanmar’s military elite to use Facebook’s broad reach to incite violence against the Rohingya. Through fake accounts and celebrity pages, the military disseminated anti-Rohingya propaganda, fake news, and inflammatory photos to millions of followers. As many as 700 people were involved in spreading this content to users across the country.

Criminal liability in international law is unique from that of most national legal systems in that it extends to those physically distant from the crime. International law’s expanded notions of criminal liability and commission are what have made it possible for justice institutions – first the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal (IMT) in 1945 and now the International Criminal Court (ICC) – to hold high-level perpetrators who order, plan, coordinate, or facilitate mass atrocities from afar accountable for their actions.

A question that international legal authorities have largely left unanswered is how this expanded notion of criminal liability might be applied in the age of global online networks and in particular, social media. There is mounting evidence that in addition to helping us stay connected and “bring the world closer together,” social media platforms are being used to proliferate ideas that result in real-world violence. 

A recent study conducted in Germany found that anti-refugee hate speech on Facebook predicted violent crimes against refugees in municipalities with above average usage of the platform. The researchers took advantage of sporadic internet outages to test the causality of the relationship, and confirmed that when “internet access went down in an area with high Facebook use, attacks on refugees dropped significantly.” Other research suggests that this may be because posts that trigger strong, negative emotions are favored by the platform’s newsfeed algorithm, which aims to maximize user engagement.

Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm is particularly vulnerable to misuse and manipulation in transitional countries like Myanmar, where democratic institutions are weak, social trust is low, and Facebook is the only website that many people access. Over the past year, Facebook has been criticized repeatedly for exacerbating the ongoing genocide against the country’s Rohingya ethnic minority by failing to contain the spread of hate speech and disinformation on its platform.

The New York Times reported disturbing details of a systematic campaign led by Myanmar’s military elite to use Facebook’s broad reach to incite violence against the Rohingya. Through fake accounts and celebrity pages, the military disseminated anti-Rohingya propaganda, fake news, and inflammatory photos to millions of followers. As many as 700 people were involved in spreading this content to users across the country.

The military’s Facebook campaign was launched five years ago – approximately the same time that human rights violations against the Rohingya are reported to have worsened. A recent report published by the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) documenting atrocity crimes committed in Myanmar’s Rhakine State found that while many patterns of abuse stretch back for decades, “the period of the most consistent persecution and escalating violence against the Rohingya began in 2012 and steadily intensified through the major attacks that began in August 2017.”

By the time Facebook announced its decision to remove 20 accounts linked to military and spiritual leaders that had “enabled serious human rights abuses” in August 2018, a Reuters investigation had documented over 100,000 anti-Rohingya Facebook posts and 700,000 Rohingya had fled across the border to Bangladesh. 

Inside Myanmar, Facebook’s announcement was met with widespread outrage and largely overshadowed the news of a United Nations report highlighting the massacre of at least 10,000 Rohingya, which had been released the day before. One government spokesman went so far as to say, “We have called Facebook to ask why they have done this…we worry that this action will have an impact on national reconciliation.” 

For others, Facebook’s response came too late. As early as 2013, Myanmar experts began meeting with Facebook to warn them that activity on the platform was fueling attacks on the Rohingya. In a presentation at the company’s headquarters, one Myanmar-based entrepreneur likened Facebook’s role in Myanmar to that of extremist anti-Tutsi radio broadcasts that propelled the Rwandan genocide. 

In March 2018, the chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar stated that social media had “substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict” in Myanmar. The following month, civil society groups published an open letter criticizing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s characterization of Facebook’s hate speech “detection systems” as effective in the aftermath of an incident that resulted in three violent attacks. The letter highlighted Facebook’s overreliance on third parties to flag dangerous content and its failure to implement a mechanism for emergency escalation. 

The ICC’s recent decision to open a preliminary investigation concerning the mass deportation of the Rohingya to Bangladesh represents a potential opportunity to prosecute perpetrators of international crimes in Myanmar. This raises important questions: How and to what extent should top Facebook officials be held responsible for their avoidance and mismanagement of an emerging crisis? Do the company’s stated concerns about infringing upon the free speech of its users justify its inaction? On what legal basis might the military leaders who exploited Facebook to incite violence against the Rohingya be prosecuted?

In a 2003 case before the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR), Prosecutor vs. Nahimana, Barayagwiza and Ngeze, three founders of extremist media outlets were convicted of direct and public incitement to commit genocide for orchestrating a propaganda campaign intended to desensitize the Hutu population and encourage them to kill Tutsis. In 2007, the Appeals Chamber reversed several aspects of the Trial Chamber's judgement on the grounds that: 1) it was inappropriate to apply international human rights law on hate speech to genocide crimes; and 2) direct and public incitement to commit genocide was not a continuous crime. In so doing, the Appeals Chamber drew a clear distinction between hate speech and international crimes, and made it difficult to hold individuals who publicly foment hatred over a long period of time accountable for violence that may result from their actions. 

The outcome of the ICTR’s so-called “Media case” suggests that the prosecution of the military leaders responsible for the anti-Rohingya Facebook campaign will constitute a significant legal challenge in itself. Still, the question of Facebook’s responsibility towards the countries it operates in – particularly those in transition – remains.

Zuckerberg himself has acknowledged: “In a lot of ways, Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company. We have this large community of people, and more than other technology companies we’re really setting policies.” Given that international law exists in large part to ensure that governments fulfill their “responsibility to protect” their own people, it seems likely that international legal authorities will need to further adapt criminal liability to account for the outsized influence of social media companies.


Informal Consultations on the Omnibus Resolution 3

Overview by Abby Roberts, Research Associate PILPG NL


  • Clauses 104, 119, and 91ter were agreed upon which was a testament to the cooperation of this body.

  • The divide between Latin America and Eastern Europe was even more prominent in this session and this came to a head with no consensus reached on the clause on equitable geographical distribution within the Bureau. 

  • The Secretariat is looking into venue options for or rescheduling of the next ASP in 2019.

On the sixth day of the ASP, the informal consultations on the omnibus resolution continued for a final time. The first clause discussed was the new operative clause placed after PP29 and it was noted that the body had come to a consensus on the phrasing and structure of this clause. 

Next under discussion was operative clause 91bis, relating to Brazils proposal for a clause on equitable geographical representation in the Bureau. Brazil spoke first on this topic and opened by noting that the Eastern European group had concerns with the timing and degree of institutionalization of Brazil’s original proposal. Brazil, in its search for consensus, decided on the wording in the draft resolution. Brazil closed its speech by expressing its belief that no country is in essence opposed to equal representation, and therefore Brazil expected agreement on this clause. Japan, Uganda, and numerous Latin American states expressed their willingness to support the proposal by Brazil. Despite Brazil’s hopes, the Eastern European group expressed their disagreement with the clause. Slovakia noted it did not address their main concerns and will not really alleviate any prominent issues, and suggested that more time is necessary to discuss the clause. Slovenia also suggested more discussion and believed that there was no need to raise this particular point in the omnibus resolution as it can be raised by members of the bureau at any point. Bulgaria and Croatia were not in support of the proposal because it had a preemptive element. The Netherlands expressed its support for the views of the Eastern European group and added that it does not see to what extent a requirement for a written report would add anything as it already can be requested. This clause was left to be discussed at a later point. 

The next clause discussed was 91ter. Germany withdrew its suggested edit which shortened the length of the ASP. Belgium had concerns with regards to this clause but was willing to go along with it in the spirit of consensus. The Czech Republic requested that the words “and frequency” be removed. A consensus was reached on this clause with the Czech Republic’s suggested edit. 

Operative clause 104 was agreed upon. Operative clause 119 was agreed upon, pending the passage of the amendment to rule 26 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

Mandate 19(b) regarding the timing of the next ASP was then put up for discussion. Finland asked if there was any possibility to change the date of it or choose a different venue to facilitate a change in date. The Secretariat responded that they are looking into other venue options or rescheduling, but this will take more time. The Coordinator suggested a clause that requests the Secretariat to present options for scheduling the next session of the assembly and requests the bureau decide on the date of the 18th session. This version of the clause was agreed upon. The meeting was then convened for 45 minutes for discussion, which left 10 minutes in the session to resolve all remaining issues.  

Brazil was the first to speak in this last part of the session and suggested the following as the new proposed text of clause 91bis: “Recalling article 112 3(b) of the Rome Statute of the ICC, request the bureau to promote adequate discussions with a view to addressing the issue of equitable geographic representation within its structure”. Slovenia noted that this discussion was supposed to be an exercise in consensus, but they were only faced with the proposal 10 minutes ago and that this is not acceptable to them. They suggested just recalling articles 112 3(a) and (b) and encouraging the bureau to remain seized on this matter. Slovakia was in agreement with Slovenia regarding Brazil’s proposal as they thought it gave a sense of urgency that they do not believe exists and they were uncertain as to what “promoting adequate discussion” means. Macedonia agreed with Slovakia and Slovenia and noted that it seems they have a different starting point when it comes to this topic, as Eastern Europe feels there is adequate representation within the Bureau. Brazil responded by saying that they think the representation needs to be addressed and discussed, as the membership in the ICC went up and they need to address the new demographic or at least have a discussion about the new demographic so the bureau is representative. To try and find a middle ground, the Republic of Korea suggested the phrasing “calls upon the bureau to consider where possible the future composition of the bureau in light of article 112 of the Rome Statute”. Serbia and the Czech Republic were hesitant regarding this proposal and Brazil wanted more time to think about the phrasing of Korea’s proposal. With two minutes left, Austria gave a speech urging flexibility in phrasing and Brazil finally stated that if language that is not agreeable cannot be even considered then they will never have new language in the resolution.  

This session ended without consensus to 91bis. 

Informal Consultations on the Omnibus Resolution 2

Overview by Phedra Neel, Research Associate PILPG NL


  • States Parties remained to disagree on Brazil’s proposed text on equitable geographical representation within the Bureau. 

  • Discussion on the duration and date of the next ASP continued. 

  • The session ran longer in order to attain a request for an amendment on a paragraph that was already agreed upon in previous sessions.

The consultations on the Omnibus Resolution reconvened on the fifth day of the ASP to finalize the discussions on the omnibus resolution by building onto revisions proposed during previous sessions. 

The first paragraph addressed was the new operational paragraph, which faced issues with its wording. Austria, Chile, Argentina and Greece supported the new operative clause. Korea on the other hand showed concerned with the formulation of this clause and additionally with the structure of the draft resolution, requesting a separate heading. Austria suggested that this can be solved by leaving enough space between this clause and the operative clauses. This clause was eventually agreed upon.

Paragraphs 9bis to 9quater were next. There was an alternative pending for these paragraphs existing of OP139 as proposed by Liechtenstein. As a reaction to previous concerns that OP9bis, ter and quarter were repetitive, France proposed an alternative OP that contained all three. However, many states (such as Kenya, Chile, Greece, Argentina, Austria, Sweden) felt like this was still too lengthy and unnecessary and thus preferred to support the proposal from Liechtenstein as this proposal referred to rule 42 of the Rules of Procedures and Evidence rather than reiterating selected sentences from it. The facilitator received a proposed consensus that will be discussed during the next session.

Following was the adaption of OP12bis and ter as there was no objection to the current form of the revised OP’s, including OP12 quarter to nonies. The substance of these articles was already agreed upon, but the level of appreciation was debated. Ecuador announced that they worked together with Mexico and came to the consensus to use the word ‘welcome’ for these specific OPs and all the other OPs in this section. This was approved by the entire session and thus agreed ad ref. OP18 and 20 were also agreed ad ref without any debate.

Next was OP71bis and 71ter, with regard to which Uganda suggested that the language was not specific enough and questioned why the text no longer mentioned that the oversight of the Bureau will take place on an annual or continuously basis. However, Uganda did not oppose the adoption of this OP and it was thus adopted ad ref.

The most debated OP was OP91bis on the equitable geographic representation within the Bureau as proposed by Brazil. Brazil explained that the number of States Parties have increased significantly over the years but that this is not reflected in the representation of the Bureau and that the time is ripe to address this issue. Brazil was supported by the Latin American states who spoke during this session (the facilitator had to close the floor as too many states wanted to express their opinion.) Many of the European countries such as Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Serbia stated that the time was not ripe, that the Court was facing way more pressing issues such as dealing with universality, legitimacy issue, and the elections of a new prosecutor. Austria called for all states to come together in unity rather than to be divided on this issue and said that in principle they support Brazil’s proposal but that they are flexible in time. Lastly, Brazil clarified that including this OP only serves to open debate and asked if the timing is not right now, then when is it? Even after the informal consultations during the break, a consensus was not reached.

Subsequently, OP91ter was discussed again in relation to OP91ter alt on the duration of the ASP. Belgium expressed its concerns that reducing the ASP to five working days would negatively affect the possibility for the ASP to take decisions which would result in very general consensus seeking processes and thus hinder progressive development. There might also not be enough time to engage with civil societies, observer states, and with the court itself. The other states expressed different concerns: Argentina and Chile expressed concern with the reference to ‘subsidiary bodies’; the Netherlands and Portugal preferred the French alternative to give the Bureau the chance to make a decision on the matter and to not prejudge it already. Slovenia combined all the grievances saying that the other events surrounding the ASP are important with regards to its efficiency, that there is no need to already include ‘subsidiary organs’ and that the outcome needs not to be prejudged. To conclude, there was a lot of support for the amended French proposal. After the break, Brazil announced that together with the French and German delegation an agreement was reached that will be send to the facilitator. 

The next OP on the list was OP 123quater. However, the delegation of the Republic of Korea wanted to reopen the debate on OP104 and proposed a few minor changes in wording. Although this OP104 was already agreed upon in earlier sessions, the issues was addressed. After giving all states the chance to read the amendments, it was agreed, by voice of Austria, that the first two of the three proposed amendments would be accepted. 

Following, OP123quater in relation to the proposal of a mandate under §15 (15b) was discussed. Chile welcomed the great improvement in language but still suggested a few changes. Kenya explained that changes in language were needed. For instance, they suggested to have the words ‘any impact’ removed as they stated that an investigation always has an impact. The UK informed that progress was made during the break and that a final proposal will be communicated in due time.

To conclude, Mandate section number 7 was agreed ad ref without any debate. Mandate section number 19b (on the dates of the next ASP) is still open as the World Forum is already booked in December and the proposed dates in November overlap with a UN meeting. Austria asked the Secretariat to book the World Forum earlier on next times. 

Side Event – “Complementarity and Cooperation Revisited: What role for the ICC in supporting national and hybrid investigations and prosecutions?”

(co-hosted by Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea and Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI))

Overview by Jill Baehring, Affiliated Expert PILPG NL


  • Pascal Turlan, OTP, said he was convinced that the ICC should not be the only actor enforcing international justice, and that the ICC always appreciated being in contact with states requesting  assistance and support for their local prosecutors.

  • Christian Ritscher, Special Prosecutor in the War Crimes Unit of the Prosecutor General in Germany, shared how in the case of prosecuting members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the German Prosecutors decided together with the OTP to split up the case to avoid double jeopardy.

After opening remarks from the Ambassador of Luxembourg, Mariana Pena from the Open Society Justice Initiative opened the panel by asking the participants to share their “lessons learned” and best practices in interacting with entities of overlapping jurisdiction. 

Responding to this, Christian Ritscher from the War Crimes Unit of the Prosecutor General in Germany shared the circumstances under which it was possible to simultaneously prosecute several individuals involved in the same crimes in front of different institutions of justice. The FDLR’s president and vice president were living in Germany, though they were not personally involved in the genocide committed because of their presence in Germany. At the same time, the Secretary-General of the FDLR lived in France. In an effort of international cooperation, the Prosecutors of Germany and France asked the OTP to split up the case between their entities. Additionally, they sought mutual legal assistance with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which saved each individual party many capacities that benefitted the prosecution as a whole. As a result, Ritscher said, not one witness was interviewed twice and files as well as other information were shared with the ICC’s OTP. Although this meant a delay of the prosecution due to bureaucratic thresholds, Germany saw this cooperation as a great success to be repeated in similar cases such as Syria and investigations in other African countries. 

Sharon Nakandha, Director of the Victim’s Support Initiative in Uganda, congratulated Christian Ritscher for this success. She pointed out that the Domenico Case opened up the possibility of a mutually beneficial relationship with the ICC, where such sharing of resources and capacity may be feasible. However, complementarity was not the only means of capacity building. She insisted that a joint prosecution strategy, sharing of evidence, and other deliberate means were equally important. Each time the ICC cooperated with local prosecution, it had the duty to disseminate their legacy with the lessons learned in the respective country.

This view was shared by Pascal Turlan, OTP. He stated that the ICC should only be one of many actors in the realm of international justice, a standpoint even engraved in the Rome Statute. He emphasized that the ICC encouraged states to seek assistance, as successfully done in Colombia and Guinea. The same was true for states outside the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction over a crime. To strengthen universal jurisdiction, the ICC was actively reaching out to authorities about potential perpetrators on their territory, helping states with all means available to the ICC. He also reiterated the very positive experience of the ICC in working with Germany and France in the case of the FDLR. However, he pointed out that such cooperation was only possible with assurances for witness protection and confidentiality, as well as an assurance that no death penalty would be applied. 


When asked about ad-hoc completion strategies, Fidelma Donlon, Registrar to the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, pointed out that the ICTY and ICTR have developed sophisticated completion strategies in the past that rooted in prosecution of the high-rank leaders in front of the tribunals, and prosecution of mid to low-ranking leaders in front of national courts. The most important component was that there was the possibility of transferring such leaders between the jurisdictions according to Rule 11bis of the ICTY Statute - again provided there were certain assurances in place. She shared that in her experience, creating a ground for such cooperation could take decades, since not every piece of evidence collected in an international trial was admissible due to national jurisdiction and human rights thresholds, and vice versa.  

Pascal Turlan added to this that the ICC was actively trying to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with states, and that discussions were always held with national authorities before formally submitting a cooperation request. To this, Sharon Nakandha added that it was her aspiration to establish a system of co-existence with international courts allowing exchange of information and resource sharing. The Malabo protocol envisioning cooperation with international courts in general, not specifically the ICC, was a good first step. 

Side Event – "Defining sexual violence, what makes sexual violence ‘sexual’?” (co-hosted by Australia, the United Kingdom and Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice))

Overview by Annelou Aartsen, Research Associate PILPG NL


  • Call it what it is campaign’ an initiative set up by civil society to create a working definition for sexual violence. 

  • Jihyun Park, a survivor activist from North Korea who shared her personal experiences and thoughts on sexual violence committed in North Korea.  

This side event was co-hosted by Australia, the United Kingdom and Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice. The Panel participating in this side event consisted of Jihyun Park (North Korean women’s Rights Activist), Patricia Sellers (Special Advisor on Gender to the ICC Prosecutor) and Dr. Rosemary Grey (teacher at the University of Sydney).  

The Australian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr. Matthew Neuhaus, began the event by recalling a personal experience during one of his visits to the North-East of the DRC. In a refugee camp in the far North of the DRC, he asked one of the local women leaders what her main problem was, and she replied that the families living in this area were not able to go down to the river to get water because they would get raped. With this story the Australian Ambassador to the Netherlands wanted to demonstrate that the main issue is that the people who are supposed to be the protectors of crimes of sexual violence, were involved in the commitment of these crimes and nothing has been done about this. According to the Australian Ambassador this is the main challenge we face when dealing with impunity, specifically when dealing with crimes of sexual violence in conflict situations. 

Secondly, the floor was given to the British Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr. Peter Wilson, who articulated that the victims of sexual violence lie at the heart of the UK’s approach. It is about understanding the experience of the individual. This side event should help to broaden our understanding of what this concept of sexual violence is and should center around the ICC, because there is a lot the ICC can do about this. Moreover, Mr. Wilson highlighted that sexual violence is also about the violence that is done to men. He highlighted that everyone should understand the context in which they are operating, something which is incredibly important in order to ensure that the right procedures are put in place to hold people accountable. 

Siobhan Hobbs, the moderator of the panel and program director at the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, moved on by formerly launching the 2018 gender report card on the ICC.  She said that the Gender report card is a tribute to those who have worked to enable the Rome Statute and the legal framework of the ICC to be what it is today in terms of gender provisions and gender equality. While she acknowledges that the Rome Statute is not perfect, and there is a whole there can be done to support its implementations, Hobbs said the Rome Statute is the most progressive framework that we have today. Next, she moved on by highlighting the goal of this side event’s discussion, namely, to discuss ‘what makes violence sexual’. While sexual violence is often understood as rape, or as the crimes that are listed in the Rome Statute, people’s understanding of what sexual violence is should be expanded. 

In order to get the discussion on a defining sexual violence going, Patricia Sellers, the Special Advisor on Gender to the ICC Prosecutor, started off by discussing how the international criminal law system came to conceptualize sexual violence. The Special Advisor on Gender discussed diverse instances in history where sexual violence appeared as an illegality within international humanitarian law. Most of these early instances of illegal sexual violence, occurring already in 1500s and 1700s, were referred to in terms of molestation of persons who are not combatants. For example, the treaties the United States entered into with Prussia, the Netherlands and France in the 1700s, all included phrases such as ‘we will be civilized, we will have respect and shall not molest women’. Through the diverse examples given by Patricia Sellers she illustrated how sexual violence against the non-combatant enemy was illegal. Next, she moves on by highlighting diverse examples of conventions and jurisprudence which prohibited the perpetration of sexual violence against the combatant enemy. Amongst others she referred to the Tokyo judgement which talks about the different forms of rape that were committed against army nurses. Through diverse examples given she demonstrates that there already existed a broad base for the prohibition of sexual violence. Additionally, the Special Advisor on Gender refers to the Additional Protocols 1 and 2, which both reiterate the prohibition of sexual violence independent of your status in war. Through these examples Patricia Sellers illustrated that sexual violence is clearly outlawed under international humanitarian law. However, while there exists a wide prohibition of sexual violence, she found a gap in the law as no such prohibition is titled ‘sexual violence’. 

Next speaker at this side event was Dr. Rosemary Grey of the University of Sydney. She commented that the ICC is the first criminal court that expressly recognizes the crime of sexual violence which provides the ICC with great potential. Amongst others, it allows the court to respond to different forms of sexual violence that are experienced by people of any gender anywhere in the world where the ICC has jurisdiction. She moves on by explaining that the crime of sexual violence is entwined in the ICC as a crime against humanity and a war crime. The current definition and the elements of the crimes that need to be demonstrated provide us with understanding of what force means. However, it does not clarify what makes an act sexual in nature. Similarly, within ICC case law there is no clear and consistent answer to the question ‘what makes violence sexual?’. As jurisprudence of the ICC demonstrates, crimes committed, which were considered as crimes of sexual violence by the victims, were not labeled as crimes of sexual violence by the ICC. The ICC would refer to such type of acts as inhuman acts, which are not of a sexual nature. 

In response to those earlier cases of the ICC, which failed to label certain acts as acts of sexual violence, the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice civil society organization has started a campaign ‘Call it what it is’ which includes a survey, to create a definition of sexual violence. This definition of sexual violence does not seek to bind or restrict the ICC in any way it rather seeks to support the ICC in understanding how the concept of sexual violence is understood across different cultures and different timeframes. The aim is to create a vocabulary and illustrative examples so that the ICC and affected communities can speak in a common language. Thereby, supporting the work of the prosecutor who tries to move forward the crime of sexual violence. It is a way of offering the ICC a definition that is inclusive, culturally sensitive and forward looking. 

The third panelist to speak was Jihyun Park, a North Korean activist, who with her story illustrated that there is a lot of sexual violence committed which has not come to the Court’s attention yet. Jihyun Park started of by highlighting that the sexual violence that takes place in North Korea is not unique to North Korea, it takes place in every society. As mentioned by the human rights activist, a survivor of sexual violence herself, sexual violence is often committed by those in powerful positions who misuse their positions. In addition, she mentions that sexual violence takes place in diverse institutions such as prisons and schools. One of the explanations pointed out by Jihyun Park is the status of women which is not considered equal to men. Amongst others, Jihyun Park refers to exploitation, human trafficking and forced abortions as acts of sexual violence taking place in North Korea. Trafficking North Korean girls into pornography is for instance a growing business in China. Additionally, she points out that victims of trafficking are at high risk to sexual and domestic violence and often do not have any access to health or education, which makes them increasingly vulnerable. Another issue referred to by the human activist is the forced abortions that are conducted to prevent ethnical mixing. Moreover, forced abortions are seen as an additional punishment of Korean women who have left North Korea. Furthermore, she highlights the climate of impunity that exists in the political prison camps in North Korea in which guards abuse their positions and are the main perpetrators of sexual violence. In her concluding remarks, Jihyun Park states that “peace cannot be brought to a country that is ruled by the men who hate women”. Additionally, she poses the question whether the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, is not a candidate for the ICC? She argues that those who are silent but aware about human rights violations happing inside North Korea should be held responsible. Additionally, she poses that North Koreans are entitled to be protected under the universality principle. 

After Jihyun Park’s story the floor was given to H.E. Sabine Nölke, the Canadian Ambassador to the Netherlands. She articulated that sexual violence can constitute a war crime in those states bound by the Rome Statute. While welcoming all important developments within the ICC and its fight against sexual violence, she noted that we have not seem enough progress. The international community has sometimes failed to address the acts of sexual violence. Therefore, the ‘call it what it is campaign’ has been developed to create a working definition for sexual violence. 

One of the questions posed within the audience was related to the situation of Colombia which is in the process of transnational justice. The question raised was ‘how activist can make the crime of sexual violence more visible to the public?’ The special advisor on gender to the ICC Prosecutor replied to this answer by stating that Colombia has a lot of prosecutors who are dedicated to fight sexual violence. However, the Colombian system is a system where the prosecutor is politically appointed and turned over quite often. While recognizing that it is a question of training and having access to terrain free investigations, it is also a political question. It is about the political will to make sexual violence a priority to execute. 

Another question that was posed by the audience was related to the definition of sexual violence and ‘how far and wide’ one could go with the definition of sexual violence?  Professor Grey responded to this question by highlighting that there is a difference about interpreting law that already exist and creating new law. Another thing she mentions in relation to this question is to think about what it means to have an act of sexual violence to be prosecutable in the ICC. That act would still have to make the Rome Statute elements of crime. 

A third question formulated by the audience was also related to defining sexual violence, and the gravity test, in particular how this would have to consider different cultural context. Since different cultures can have different interpretations of the one definition. Professor Grey answered this by stating that she thinks that it is better to have a definition which can vary from culture to culture, than to have a definition which is narrower and descriptive but is in fact only the perspective of one culture. This would allow the ICC to be more responsive to the various context in which it operates. In relation to the gravity threshold, Professor Grey mentions that removing the gravity threshold would require states parties to do so. Whereas, interpreting an act as an act of sexual nature could be done through a campaign of the civil society, which can subsequently be offered to the Court.