Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the Perils of Impunity

Journal article

Binningsbø, Helga Malmin & Ragnhild Nordås (2022) Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the Perils of Impunity, Journal of Conflict Resolution. DOI: 10.1177/00220027221078330.

Read the article here (Open Access)

“Ending impunity” is often heralded as the key mechanism for stopping rape in war. Yet, little systematic evidence or analyses exist of the relationship between impunity (or lack thereof) and sexual violence. We argue that amnesties signal impunity and permissiveness for sexual violence, which can perpetuate and instigate more sexual violence by rebels. Trials, on the other hand, signal a nonzero probability of punishment, which could have a deterrent effect. Studying all intrastate armed conflicts in the period 1989–2011, we find in line with the impunity signal that amnesties are associated with sexual violence by rebels, but we are not able to demonstrate a deterrent effect of trials. While the study prevents us from conclusively saying that ending impunity would be an effective policy tool to stop sexual violence in war, the association between amnesties and subsequent sexual violence is a testament to the perils of impunity.

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