Research event

'Within the context of society': Building intersectional models and strategies for international criminal law and practice

A presentation by Alexandra Lily Kather (Hertie School). This event is part of the Fundamental Rights Research Colloquium hosted by the Centre for Fundamental Rights.

In most - if not all - situations of mass violence, perpetrator(s) and victim(s) are situated in multiple, intersecting systems of oppression, 'within the context of society' in which atrocities occur, that form the backdrop of the criminal conduct and individual responsibility international criminal law aims to account for.

Thus far, international criminal law jurisprudence contains certain traces of intersectionality, a concept coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw to provide a multi-axis framework for anti-discrimination law in the United States to recognise and account for the discrimination experienced by Black women on the basis of their race, sex, and class. Yet, intersectionality’s introduction as consistently applied and legitimised methodology to the international criminal justice, a transposition not without challenges, remains outstanding.

Instead, there is a tendency to homogenise groups protected by international criminal law as well as their subgroups and members. There is furthermore an inconsistent approach when it comes to offering legal protection to such groups, their subgroups and members whose fundamental rights have been violated by multiple, intersecting grounds that are “universally recognised as impermissible under international law”. Such a single-axis approach, not only overlooks the violence and harm experience by subgroups and members within protected groups but also runs risk of weakening international crimes cases as a whole by disregarding potentially crucial (corroborating) evidence.

This paper critically explores whether and how intersectionality can offer a methodology to international criminal law practice that carries the potential to unmask the interaction between various systems of oppression in which both the perpetrator(s) and victim(s) are located while uncovering the root causes of interlinked grounds of discrimination and revealing the full breadth of the experiences of harm that in turn can inform effective remedies. It takes a close look at international criminal law jurisprudence and examples from litigation practice to investigate what models and strategies have been or could be operationalised to move closer towards a future in which internationalised justice processes are built on an intersectional understanding of people’s lives and the injustice they experience.

This presentation is part of the Fundamental Rights Research Colloquium's cluster on 'Emerging Challenges to Fundamental Rights'.

Alexandra Lily Kather, LL.M., is a visiting fellow at Hertie School's Centre for Fundamental Rights. She is a legal consultant in international criminal justice, transitional justice and human rights with expertise in investigation, capacity-building, policy-oriented research and advocacy. Her work follows a trauma-informed, intersectional approach with respect to both engagement with affected persons, communities and partners and the design and implementation of research, investigation and case-building. Kather's specialised interest lies in the strategic investigation and prosecution of sexual violence and the gendered commission of international crimes. She previously worked for the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the International Law Programme at Chatham House and the British Institute for International and Comparative Law. Her Visiting Fellowship at the Centre for Fundamental Rights examines intersectionality as a method to advance international justice.

Prior registration is required. Registered attendees will receive the dial-in details as well as a draft paper, on which the presentation is based, via e-mail prior to the event.