The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism) marked this year’s International Women’s Day, 8 March 2019, with events at both the Arusha and The Hague branches. The Mechanism joined in the global theme of “Balance for Better”, celebrating the achievements of women and efforts to promote women’s rights with events aimed at raising awareness of the importance of gender equality, gender balance, and gender justice, as well as fighting impunity for conflict-related sexual violence against women.

In celebrating this year’s global theme, the Mechanism’s Arusha branch welcomed over 60 students from Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus Secondary School, Saint Joseph Nagarenaro Girls’ Secondary School, Peace House Secondary School, and the Faculty of Law of the Tumaini University in Arusha, as well as representatives of three local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Following opening remarks made by Mechanism Legal Officer Ms Tully Mwaipopo on behalf of the Chief of Registry (Arusha branch), Ms Sera Attika, presentations were made by Ms Thembile Segoete, Mechanism Focal Point for Gender and Acting Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Prosecutor (Arusha branch); Ms Ndinini Sikar, representative of the Masaai Women Development Organization; Ms Eliakunda Kaaya, representative of Africaid Kisa Project; Mr Reuben A. Brown, representative of Arusha Women Legal Aid and Human Rights Organization; Ms Gloria Otieno on behalf of the Mechanism Staff Union; and Mechanism Judge Vagn Joensen. The speakers focused on the history of the International Women’s day and its purpose, their own personal experiences with regard to their struggles for equality, and the role of the Mechanism, as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in fighting for the rights of women through their jurisprudence on sexual and gender based crimes.

As part of the day’s events, representatives of the NGOs also displayed crafts produced by the women they support and participants were given the opportunity to tour the Mechanism’s Arusha premises and share their opinions by way of recorded interviews on the significance of a day to celebrate women.

At the event in The Hague, entitled Efforts to End Impunity: National and International Prosecution of Sexual and Gender Based Crimes, the Mechanism welcomed over 80 representatives of the diplomatic community, other international courts and tribunals, the NGO sector, and international organizations based in The Hague. The event was jointly organized by the Mechanism’s Focal Points for Gender together with Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ), an NGO active in the field of conflict-related gender justice.

The event was opened by Ms Melinda Reed, Executive Director of WIGJ, after which Ms Leslie Thomas introduced The Prosecutors, a documentary that she directed and produced. Guests were shown an excerpt of the documentary, which tells the story of three dedicated lawyers fighting impunity through the prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence. Two of these lawyers, Ms Amani Kahatwa from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mr Jasmin Mesić  from Bosnia and Herzegovina, joined Ms Sarah Bafadhel, a criminal defence lawyer practicing before national and international courts, for a panel discussion on the challenges and successes of prosecuting sexual and gender based crimes. The discussion was moderated by Ms Gabrielle McIntyre, Mechanism Focal Point for Gender (The Hague branch) and Chief Judicial Advisor. Ms Laurel Baig, Senior Appeals Counsel in the Office of the Prosecutor, closed the event by discussing the work that the Mechanism’s Office of the Prosecutor has done through capacity building in other criminal justice sectors.

These International Women’s Day events took place with the full support of the three Mechanism Principals, in line with their pledges undertaken as International Gender Champions for the Gender Champions Initiative, and  were made possible thanks to generous contributions including from the Mechanism’s Staff Union, the governments of Switzerland and Canada, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom.