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Q&A: The impact of the ruling

Christiane Amanpour
Christiane Amanpour  

CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour assesses the impact of the conviction of three Bosnian Serbs of crimes against humanity in the first war-time sex enslavement case at an international court.

Q: What is the significance of the ruling in The Hague?

A: It is a precedent setting in a number of ways.

Firstly, it clearly establishes rape as a war crime. Up until this decision mass rape has not been prosecuted in the general rubric of war crimes. Rape is now, when used as an instrument of war, a crime against humanity when used systematically and widespread and where it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

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    Secondly, it has widened the definition of slavery. Two of the defendants were each convicted of a count of enslavement. It is the first time in history that the issue of sex slavery has been recognised as a crime against humanity. Even during the Nuremberg trials (after World War II) the issue of slavery focused only on forced labour. That definition has now been expanded to include sex abuse.

    Q: Do you think this will send a signal to warring parties in the world?

    A: That is a very interesting question. Sex abuse and rape has been used widely in the wars I have covered. Will warring parties now take it seriously? That remains to be seen. But the message has now been sent out that those who commit such crimes -- and are proven to have done so -- will face very serious charges which carry the maximum sentence.

    Q: How do you, personally, assess the court ruling in light of what you have seen and reported on in Bosnia at the time of conflict?

    A: This is a moment that few of us who covered that conflict thought we would see. The international war crimes tribunal is a fairly new phenomenon and few thought it would go this far. What has been interesting is to see first hand what the tribunal said it would do -- prosecute war criminals in every sense of the meaning -- happen.

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    War crimes tribunal hands Croat general lengthy sentence
    Bosnia war crimes suspect kills himself
    Trial begins for Serbs charged with systematic rapes in Bosnia
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    International Criminal tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
    Bosnia War Crimes Tribunal
    Mass Rape: War on Women

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