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Alette Smeulers

Only a very small percentage of the perpetrators convicted by international criminal courts and tribunals are women. This raises the question as to whether women are less evil than men. Within the literature it is generally assumed that the genocide in Rwanda was unprecedented in relation to the role played by women, and that it is the first and only period of mass violence in which many women were involved. This explorative study however, shows that women have played a much larger role than we have generally assumed so far and that women can be just as evil as men – although it indeed seems true that generally far less women than men are involved in mass atrocities. There is a clear gender bias in the portrayal of female perpetrators as sadists, abnormal or lacking agency, but it can be questioned whether female perpetrators are less ordinary than male perpetrators.

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International Crimes and Other Gross Human Rights Violations

A Multi- and Interdisciplinary Textbook


Alette Smeulers and Fred Grünfeld

International crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as well as other gross human rights violations are manifestations of collective violence which endanger international peace and security. and warrant our full attention. It however takes a multi- and interdisciplinary approach to understand the true nature and causes of this type of criminality. The aim of this book is to take such an approach and to provide university students, scholars, professionals and practitioners within the field with the knowledge they need. The legal background and particularities of international crimes; the social context in which these crimes are committed as well as the perpetrators and bystanders thereof are studied. Within the book many case studies are presented as illustrations.
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Alette Smeulers, Alette Smeulers, Barbora Hola, Alette Smeulers, Barbora Hola and Tom van den Berg

The international criminal justice system comprises nine international criminal courts and tribunals; six are still operational and three have closed down. On average, they operated for almost nine years apiece and concluded 172 cases in which over 250 judges and 23 chief prosecutors were involved. All in all 745 suspects were indicted, 356 were actually tried and, of these, some 281 defendants were convicted. Currently 34 suspects are on trial and 22 are still at large. The ‘average’ convicted perpetrator is male, aged 40 and a member of a military or paramilitary organisation from Europe, Asia or Africa who is acting on behalf of his government. These are just some of the facts and figures which we present in this article: an overview of the empirical reality of the international criminal justice system which has currently been functioning for just over 65 years.

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Barbora Hola, Catrien Bijleveld and Alette Smeulers


The sentencing practice of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is a relatively neglected topic in academic discussions. The few empirical studies on sentencing of international crimes have focused primarily on the sentencing practice of its 'sister court', the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Unlike ICTY defendants, almost all ICTR defendants have been convicted of and sentenced for genocide – arguably the most serious international crime. This empirical study examines the sentencing practice of the ICTR and analyses the relationship between sentence severity and the primary consideration in sentencing – crime gravity. The relevant principles stemming from ICTR case law are reviewed, followed by an examination of the interrelationship between sentence severity and factors relating to crime gravity, such as category of crime, scale of crime and the form and degree of a defendant's involvement in the crime. The ICTR judges appear in most cases to follow the main principles emphasized in their case law, with sentences gradated in line with the increasing seriousness of defendants' crimes and their culpability.

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Alette Smeulers, Maartje Weerdesteijn and Barbora Hola

The main aim of the International Criminal Court (icc) is to prosecute the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. One of the most valued features of the icc is the independent position of the Prosecutor in selecting situations and cases to investigate. The Prosecutor, however, has been heavily criticized for his selection policy and countries from the African Union even threatened to withdraw from the icc because of its alleged bias and unfair focus on African political leaders. In this article we present the results of our explorative study in which we empirically evaluate the situations selection policy of the icc Prosecutor. We conclude that given the icc’s limited jurisdictional reach, the Prosecutor is generally focusing on the gravest situations where international crimes are supposedly committed.