Submission Date


Document Type



International Relations


Rebecca Evans

Committee Member

Johannes Karreth

Committee Member

Ann Karreth

Department Chair

Rebecca Evans

External Reviewer

Mark A. Pollack

Distinguished Honors

This paper has met the requirements for Distinguished Honors.

Project Description

Conflict-related rape—once thought to be an inevitable symptom of war—has been legally recognized as both a distinct weapon of war and a crime against humanity, yet it continues to be utilized with impunity. To understand why combatants rape, this paper examines the aspects of military culture that create environments in which raping is not only permissible, but encouraged; additionally, this paper considers cases of genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda in which rape was used systematically to achieve political goals, and how these conflicts contributed to new conceptions of rape in international criminal law. These new conceptions of conflict-related rape created additional avenues to prosecute perpetrators, notably the International Criminal Court (ICC), but does membership in the ICC deter the use of conflict-related rape, or guarantee successfully convicted perpetrators? In both regards, ICC sexual violence jurisdiction in member and non-member states proves to be underwhelming: many ICC judgments have failed to convict individuals for rape due to too-strict standards of command responsibility, certain ICC prosecutorial strategies have deprioritized rape charges, and ICC prosecutions are complicated by the Court’s dependence on state cooperation. Furthermore, ICC investigations and trials have been found to have negligible effects on deterring state and rebel forces from using sexual violence. Though ICC member states cannot rely solely on the Court’s jurisdiction to deter conflict-related sexual violence, ICC jurisdiction can importantly strengthen domestic prosecutions of conflict-related rape, and strong commitment to ICC complementarity in member states has the potential to expand the reach of deterrence efforts.