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In Our Time (Hour 3)

In the third and final hour, we see both the revitalization of postwar justice over two decades and its limitations in confronting the exponential rise in civilian atrocities—sexual violence and genocide—occurring in the Balkans, Rwanda, Congo, Syria, Sri Lanka, and other countries.

AIRED: 3/28/2017 | 00:54:15
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[Indistinct chatter] [Gavel banging] Man: War crimes are acts and omissions in violation of the laws and customs of war.

[Gunfire] [Men shouting] The crime against humanity is fundamentally different from the mere war crime in that it embraces systematic violations of fundamental human rights committed at any time against the nationals of any nation.

[Men speaking foreign language] It is therefore wholly fitting for this court to hear these charges of international crimes and to adjudge them in the name of civilization.

'The case we present is a plea of humanity to law.

'If these men be immune, then law has lost its meaning, and man must live in fear.'

[Shuts book] Narrator: Since delivering the closing argument at the Nuremberg Einsatzgruppen trial in 1948, Benjamin Ferencz has advocated for the creation of institutions that deter war crimes.

Ferencz, voice-over: I came to the conclusion that we need institutions which will condemn those crimes and hold accountable the leaders responsible by denouncing as crimes against humanity these massive violations of human rights against large numbers of civilians.

[Cheering] Narrator: Throughout the Cold War, conflicts and human rights violations often defeated campaigns for peace and justice, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, what once seemed Quixotic began to appear possible.

Woman: The Berlin Wall falls in 1989, the Cold War is ending by 1991, so we''re in that period of the New World Order.

It sounds sort of almost quaint now.

George H.W. Bush: A New World Order can emerge, a new era freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace.

[Applause] Roht-Arriaza: But there was a period at the end of the Cold War where the thought was 'OK.

Finally, we''re over this.'

We can now move on to the question of dealing with the governance challenges that have been paralyzed during the course of the Cold War.

[Explosions] Narrator: The hopeful talk was cut short by a new conflict which began in 1991 when the constituent states of Yugoslavia declared independence and went to war with one another.

[Sirens] Roht-Arriaza: The conflict in the Balkans creates a real conundrum because it''s not just a few isolated incidents, but you have an actual systematic nature of crime.

This was concentration camps, emaciated inmates on TV 24/7 in the heart of Europe, and that--that was just intolerable.

[Explosions, gunfire] Narrator: As the atrocities mounted, the United Nations deployed peacekeepers to the Balkans, but the Security Council voted against military intervention.

Man: Will those in favor of the draft resolution please raise their hand?

Narrator: Instead, the Security Council established a war crimes tribunal.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia opened its doors in 1993.

They have stayed open ever since.

Man: The tribunal was set up, and it seemed to be something that was without precedent, literally precedent-setting.

There''s nothing like this because it''s gonna be different from--from Nuremberg.

Remember that Nuremberg was an international military tribunal, and this is going to be a civilian tribunal, an international tribunal run through the United Nations.

That''s supposed to separate it out from victors'' justice, particularly since none of the parties setting up are actively involved in the war.

Narrator: Also without precedent was the effort to investigate war crimes during an active war.

Man: ICTY was established when war was still going on, and of course, no international tribunal could be established in the area.

We had to operate from several thousand of kilometers away.

The prosecutor had to find evidence in the middle of the war.

Narrator: Evidence collected in the Balkans over the past two decades is stored in this bomb-proof vault at the tribunal headquarters.

The tribunal chief of operations is Bob Reid.

Reid: In the beginning, we were all a bit shell- shocked because we just kept getting allegations day after day after day of--of mass atrocities that were occurring in the region, and we sort of said, 'Well, where do we start with this?'

Narrator: They started with the routine police work that accompanies every murder investigation-- identifying crime scenes, taking testimony, gathering physical evidence.

Reid: We were now not a fact-finding mission.

We were a court of law that had to prove the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt, so you''re gathering the evidence so that you can indict the low-level perpetrators, if I can put it that way, and then to move up.

Meron: The case on our agenda today is prosecutor against Zdravko Tolimir.

Woman: Case IT-96-23, the prosecutor versus Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovac, and Zoran Vukovic.

Different woman: The 3 accused have been charged by the prosecution with crimes against humanity, rape, torture, enslavement, and outrages upon personal dignity.

Narrator: The details that emerged from the early trials of low- and mid-level defendants led investigators ever closer to the architects of war crimes.

Man: Once they began prosecuting low-level perpetrators, they began to reconstruct the chain of command, and teams were able to go into the country and were able to find out who were the mid-level and higher officials who were responsible and begin to bring charges against them, leading all the way to the top.

Narrator: At the top were 3 military and political leaders: Slobodan Milosevic, the president of Serbia; Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, both of the Republic of Srpska.

Today after decades of isolation, Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is recovering its prewar vitality.

A new generation with no experience of conflict is determined to join the European Union... but the war which ended in 1999 is never out of sight or out of mind.

Narrator: Since the outbreak of the conflict, Natasa Kandic has been gathering evidence of war crimes throughout the Balkans.

Her most significant discovery was given to her by a former Serbian paramilitary member who took part in atrocities.

His paramilitary unit was called the Scorpions.

[Gunshots] Narrator: The video documented the murders of 6 Bosnian Muslim prisoners a decade earlier.

Kandic spent two years convincing the former paramilitary to give her the videotape, and she finally got it in 2005.

Kandic gave the videotape to prosecutors from the International Tribunal and Serbian Justice Ministry.

[Gunfire on videotape] In 2006, the video was screened in this Belgrade courtroom, where it helped convict 4 former Scorpion members of mass murder.

At their sentencing, the paramilitaries testified that the slaughter had been ordered by senior military commanders.

[Gunfire continues] Narrator: The videotape was evidence of only one massacre in a series that decimated the Muslim population of the Srebrenica region of Bosnia.

Among the victims, the villagers of Dobrak, a farming community.

Before the war, close to 1,000 people lived here.

Today, only a handful of these homes are occupied.

Saliha Osmanovic lived in Dobrak with her husband and two sons in July, 1995, when Serbian forces began their assault.

One son was killed instantly.

A week later, Serb paramilitaries captured her husband and her other son.

Saliha escaped to a refugee camp, where she learned the fate of her husband and son from media reports.

[Men speaking foreign language] In this video, Serb paramilitaries were shown forcing her husband to call their son out of hiding.

[Shouting foreign language] [Shouting foreign language] More than 8,000 Muslim civilians, mostly men and boys, were massacred in and around Srebrenica.

Hundreds of women and girls were raped.

Neither the United Nations nor NATO could prevent a humanitarian catastrophe that was later designated a genocide.

[Men speaking foreign language] Following the Srebrenica massacre, thousands of bodies were brought to this abandoned warehouse.

Eric Stover helped investigate their deaths.

Stover: This was the biggest single massacre that had taken place on European soil since World War II, and for the women, finding out what happened to their menfolk was extremely important, so it wasn''t just simply gathering evidence to prosecute those responsible.

It was also being able to exhume the graves, identify the remains, and to have those remains returned to the families so that they could give them proper burial.

Narrator: In the Balkans more than anywhere else, the missing have been recovered.

Here at the Podrinje Identification Center, human remains recently exhumed from mass graves are reconstructed and identified.

This work has been going on since 1996 when the International Commission on Missing Persons was established.

Founder Kathryne Bomberger.

Bomberger: The International Commission on Missing Persons was created right after the conflict ended to address the large numbers of persons that went missing as a consequence of the conflicts in the entire region of the former Yugoslavia, so I think, you know, there was an historical shift in the way the international community was now dealing with justice.

Narrator: The commission has by necessity advanced the science of forensic identification.

Technicians are now able to extract DNA from bone fragments that only a few years ago would have had no genetic value.

The sample can then be matched with a database of some 90,000 next of kin.

You have almost-- I hate to say this-- a factory-like system where you''re dealing with the enormity of the problem, dealing with the bone, dealing with the blood.

We''ve now put it in a way that the DNA evidence can be provided for court purposes, whether it''s a domestic court, whether it''s in an international court, but there are still 9,000 persons missing from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and it''s getting harder and harder and harder to find these remaining missing persons cases, and 9,000 people is a lot.

Narrator: In 2009, the commission found the remains of Saliha''s husband and son.

She buried them a few miles from her home at Potocari Cemetery outside Srebrenica.

They rest alongside thousands of other massacre victims.

With the remains buried, survivors began cooperating with war crime investigators.

Stover: You could see gradually the women who survived Srebrenica wanted justice, and they wanted to see that it go all the way up the chain of command eventually to the person who allegedly ordered that massacre, which is Ratko Mladic.

Narrator: In May 2011, Serbian special forces conducted a predawn raid on a remote village.

[Small explosions] There they captured Ratko Mladic, military commander of the Srebrenica campaign.

He''d been a fugitive from justice for 16 years.

Man: By the commission of genocide... Narrator: Two years later, Saliha Osmanovic journeyed from her village to the Hague.

There, she testified against Mladic on trial for genocide.

Saliha is one of 4,000 witnesses who''ve made the journey to the Hague.

For her efforts, she received a letter from the prosecutor''s office.

It read, 'Thank you for testifying and serving justice.'

[Chatter in Serbian] The tribunal''s pursuit of fugitive war criminals took place during a period of social unrest in Serbia.

A decade of war had left the country an international pariah, and in the fall of 2,000, protestors thronged the streets of Belgrade to depose the country''s leaders.

[Sirens] Man: In the search for those who were still at large, the tribunal was aided immeasurably by both the, uh, economic sanctions that were brought against Serbia and the enticement of-- of joining the European Union, so it was both a carrot and a stick, and it was aided also by the, uh, internal dissension in Serbia at the time, which produced finally a number of these accused to face the tribunal.

Case number IT-99-37-I, the prosecutor versus Slobodan Milosevic.

Narrator: The combination of external and internal pressure led to the extradition of the Serbian president.

He appeared before the tribunal in 2001 to defend himself against 66 counts of crimes against humanity.

Milosevic: I consider this tribunal false tribunal and indictments false indictments.

It is illegal.

Narrator: Other senior leaders followed.

Man: The first count is a count of Genocide.

Narrator: Notably Radovan Karadzic, charged with genocide after his capture in Belgrade.

Reid: When I first arrived here, they said we weren''t gonna get a single perpetrator through the door, single indictee through the door.

We indicted 161 people, and 161 people have been accounted for before this tribunal.

[Band playing] Narrator: The trials are unprecedented in their duration.

The trial of Slobodan Milosevic took 5 years.

He died before a verdict was reached.

The Mladic trial, formally opened in 2012, it hasn''t ended yet.

In recent years, riots in Serbia have accompanied the arrest of war criminals by the Hague Tribunal.

In 2015, the Serbian prime minister was assaulted by mourners during a commemoration marking the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.

Stover: The tribunal is not actually having a beneficial effect in the region.

It may be that it was never supposed to be necessarily popular in the former Yugoslavia, but it would have to be have been accepted as legitimate and as fair and as unbiased, and it simply is not.

How can you have a justice that is satisfactory to a group of people who do not share a history on what actually happened?

Narrator: But the tribunal has clarified the history of a conflict defined by crimes against humanity.

Man: Mr. Karadzic, the chamber finds you guilty of the following counts: count two genocide... Narrator: For tribunal president Meron, how the tribunal is perceived the international community will determine the course of post-conflict justice.

The fact is that we have shown that the age of impunity is over, that the default system now is hope of trial and not an expectation of impunity.

The chamber hereby sentences you to 40--4-0--years of imprisonment.

The court stands adjourned.

[Man speaks French] Roht-Arriaza: Any time you talk about these kinds of efforts, either through national or international justice, to heal the wounds of the past, I don''t think it''s ever possible to do that for many people.

I think what we''re talking about is ameliorating.

It''s saying to people, 'We recognize that 'awful things were done and that they were not your fault,' and that''s the most you can do, but the corollary of that is that anything you do is going to feel like it''s falling short.

Narrator: Shortfall has for generations defined the international community''s response to crimes against humanity.

Ban Ki-Moon: The United Nations should have done much more.

We have pledged never again again and again.

Narrator: In 2014, the United Nations recognized that its inaction 20 years earlier had enabled genocide in the Republic of Rwanda.

Because hate was not resisted quickly and forcefully enough, more than 800,000 men, women, and children were killed.

Perpetrators, murderers were deciding how far they would go, and we failed to affect their calculus.

Narrator: Like the Balkan conflict that preceded it, the genocide in Rwanda confronted the international community with its obligations under international and humanitarian law, but instead of intervention, there was inertia.

The slaughter by the Hutu majority against the minority Tutsi and political moderates lasted 100 days.

A the end of it, over 10% of the population was dead.

Man: The genocide in Rwanda was fast, took place in front of the world''s eyes under the presence of a UN peacekeeping force, and it was very poorly understood at the time.

I went a year later because I''d been trying to understand what on Earth happened here, what happened, what does it tell us about humankind, and also, how on Earth does one live in the aftermath of this?

Narrator: Journalist Philip Gourevitch has probed the factual and philosophic depths of the Rwandan genocide for over two decades.

In that time, he''s often explored the commune of Taba, which occupies a unique place in the genocide''s annals.

Gourevitch: I went to Taba because in 1996, after the mass return from the refugee camps brought a lot of people home I was asking people around there 'How''s the return going?'

And people said, 'Well, there''s this one killer who came back,' a group of survivors I found, who at that point were basically homeless and living in the ruins, having had their houses destroyed and everything by this man, and they said, 'This man is the man who 'terrorized our hill.

'This man is the man who knew us each family by family and hunted us down day and night.'

Narrator: The man is know by his nickname Gasumari.

During the genocide, he led a gang that committed mass murders in Taba.

Gourevitch: The Rwandan genocide''s very different from other incidents of mass communal killing in that it was done not just by, in many cases, civilian executioners but that it was done locally.

It was done extremely intimately and personally within a community by people who knew one another.

In many, many, many, many cases, the killers knew their victims personally.

They were the teacher killing their students, the doctor killing his patients, the priest killing his parishioners.

They were a neighbor killing people his family had intermarried with or had--had lived side by side with without any overt conflict for decades.

Narrator: Evariste Sindayigaya is a survivor of Gasumari''s frenzy.

Born into a large Tutsi family, Evariste was a child when his sister married Gasumari.

Mixed marriages were then common, and he has fond memories of family gatherings.

Evariste was beaten by his brother-in-law and his gang, but he eluded death by escaping into the bush.

He hid out for months before returning to Taba when the slaughter ended.

He''s been here ever since.

His brother-in-law Gasumari now lives on the other side of this hill.

Woman: And it''s a long... At the genocide''s outset, Taba''s leaders defied government orders to kill the Tutsi residents.

Despite radio broadcasts exhorting Hutus to violence, the mayor of Taba Jean-Paul Akayesu turned his commune into something of a sanctuary.

Gourevitch: For the first weeks of April, Taba was one of the best places, uh, for a Tutsi who either lived there or sought refuge to have some hope of survival, and then Akayesu turned, and he became a leader of the killing and went around encouraging it and doing house-to-house hunts himself and was very much involved, also, in urging on rape of Tutsi women, and Taba became a--a very terrible place.

Narrator: When the killing ended and a tentative peace was imposed on Rwanda, the UN established its second international tribunal in neighboring Tanzania.

Its first defendant the former mayor of Taba Jean-Paul Akayesu.

He had fled Rwanda in the genocide''s final days but was captured and extradited to the tribunal.

Navanethem Pillay was a judge at his trial.

Pillay: Jean-Paul Akayesu didn''t actually do any killing himself, wield a machete or kill anyone.

He was accused of ordering and encouraging particularly the widespread sexual violence that took place in his commune.

Narrator: Sexual violence has always been a component of war.

The Akayesu trial was the first time it was prosecuted as a war crime.

Incidents of sexual violence in conflicts and wars have traditionally been neglected as a crime because the capture of women and rape of women was seen as the trophies of war, the rewards you offer to your soldiers.

In the Akayesu case, where I sat on the bench of 3 judges, it was the judges who picked up from the evidence of a witness, uh, who had described seeing her 6-year-old daughter being raped, and we made comments from the bench to the witness.

We said, 'We want to hear you on this.'

[Gavel bangs] Narrator: The Akayesu indictment was amended, and the former mayor of Taba was convicted of genocide, the first such conviction in history.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In the ruling, the judges extended the definition of genocide to include sexual assault and rape.

So the world''s first jurisprudence on sexual violence only occurred in 1997.

Narrator: The Rwanda tribunal closed in 2015 after convicting a few dozen senior leaders of the genocide.

This was a trivial number compared to the 200,000 suspected killers languishing in Rwanda''s prisons.

10 years after the genocide, national courts had brought only 5% to trial.

Gourevitch: The genocide was successful in ensuring that justice was impossible because the scale of--of killing and the scale of participation, uh, was such-- you can''t arrest a mob.

How do you do that?

What can you do?

Rwanda at the time, uh, murder was a capital crime.

They had the death penalty, uh, so they thought, 'Well, are we going to--like they did 'at Nuremberg--execute the guilty that we get our hands on?'

Well, that would lead to a gigantic judicial massacre, uh, of tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people that we could say were directly implicated.

You also had the problem that the justice system, the legal system was completely destroyed, and you had a tremendous need to try to figure this out.

Narrator: With modern conceptions of justice impractical, Rwanda turned to its own traditions, electing community members like Beata Mukamera to administer justice locally.

Beata lost relatives and her fiancé in the genocide.

In 2001, she was elected a judge on a community tribunal known as a gacaca.

She had no legal qualifications, but she pledged to remain impartial.

Gacaca is a Kinyarwanda word meaning 'place of tall grass.'

In tribal days, disputes among villagers were traditionally resolved in the open, and the word evolved to mean a forum where opposing parties submitted to the judgment of neighbors.

In post-genocide Rwanda, the gacaca was revived to judge the perpetrators.

Gourevitch: 'We have a unique problem.

'Maybe we need a unique solution.

'We need to create a system 'where the communities in which this happened are the communities that account for it to one another.'

So the idea was 'Well, we have this 'in our tradition.

'We know how to deal with our own problems.

Let''s use our traditional thing,' but of course, it wasn''t exactly the traditional thing.

It was highly a repurposed, codified, modern version where they set up a system, and they had 12,000 community courts all around the country simultaneously.

There would be no lawyers, 'and what we 'will have instead is we will have the entire 'community is called upon to kind of come here 'and collectively resolve these cases.

'We''re trying to achieve justice as 'in accountability, we''re trying to achieve, 'uh, a degree of truth, but we will offer considerable leniency for confession.'

Narrator: Gasumari was brought before a district gacaca in 2008.

He confessed his crimes and begged forgiveness from his victims.

He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.

Gourevitch: Gasumari was the first killer I asked, 'Why does everybody say you are a killer?'

And he said, 'Because I was a killer.'

He was interesting because from the very start he had understood that confession was going to pave his way to maybe even coming home from jail and being with his family, and it was-- it was hard not to think of it as quite cynical because here''s a guy who when the authorities said, 'Kill,' he turned into a wildly avid killer, and he said, 'I--I took pleasure in killing people with my club,' and now here he was, and the order was 'Confess,' and he was like the avid confessor.

Narrator: Gacaca proceedings ended in 2012 with over 400,000 murder cases judged.

Sentences for those who confessed their crimes were relatively brief, 10 years on average.

Defendants who did not confess faced maximum sentences of 30 years.

In Taba, participants generally speak of the process as constructive.

In the aftermath of Gacaca, some survivors have even come to reconcile with their attackers.

Evariste is now reconciled with his brother-in-law, the man who tried to murder him.

They are friends, drinking companions, family.

Gacaca was an attempt by the country to deal with a caseload that would never, ever be touched by an international tribunal.

So there was a need for a national solution.

Now are there missed opportunities and injustices?

Yes, but the--the idea that the confession is-- had a healing power, it''s not that 'hearing you confess made me feel better.'

No. On the contrary.

The confessions were often so horrible and so violent and so vivid and so explicit that they retramuatized the victims, and they thought, 'The gacaca''s the worst thing that 'I''ve ever been through.

'To see this arrogant person get up here 'and talk about how he clubbed my mother or raped my sister,' whatever it is, but then down the road, you see that person walking around again, and you feel like he''s reentered the human community because a person who has something to hide is still on the other side.

The person who won''t admit it is still loyal to some idea of what it was that he did, and that''s really powerful, and it''s especially powerful when you realize that part of the project here is not simply a highly technical legal idea of adjudicating right and wrong and punishment, but it is the reconstruction of a society, the putting back together of people who have been totally divided.

[Clock ticking] [Thunk] Ryan: The idea that justice is not only an end in itself but a force for reconciliation has led to a whole raft of special tribunals that seem to sometimes come and go.

You''ve got the tribunal for the Hariri assassination in Lebanon.

You''ve got the special chambers in Cambodia for the Pol Pot years.

[Man speaking Cambodian] You''ve got the Iraqi tribunal for Saddam Hussein.

So the courts are there.

Whether justice is being done, though, is a separate question.

Narrator: Yet another court was established in 2002, once again in the Hague.

Unlike its temporary predecessors, the International Criminal Court, the ICC, was conceived as a permanent institution with jurisdiction limited to states that are incapable of prosecuting major crimes.

For Benjamin Ferencz, the ICC was the realization of a lifelong goal.

Ferencz: We are in the process of changing the way the world thinks, and it''s for the good.

We have created an international criminal court after about 50 years of effort.

We are creating international courts to deal with the genocides in Rwanda and so on too late, always too late, but at least, we are doing something about it now, and I see the progress.

It''s fantastic.

Narrator: Precisely 64 years after he delivered his closing argument at Nuremberg, Benjamin Ferencz delivered the closing argument at the ICC''s first trial in 2012.

Ferencz: This is a historic moment in the evolution of international criminal law.

For the first time, a permanent international criminal court will hear the closing statement for the prosecution as it concludes its first case against its first accused.

Narrator: The defendant Thomas Lubanga Dylio led a militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Rebels under his command engaged in ethnic massacres, torture, rape, and conscripting child soldiers.

Let the voice and the verdict of this esteemed global court now speak for the awakened conscience of the world.

Thank you.

[Indistinct chatter] Narrator: In 2012, villagers in the district of Ituri, Democratic Republic of the Congo, gathered at a church hall to watch the first ICC trial.

It held particular significance for them.

Many were victims or survivors of Lubanga''s crimes.

Also among the viewers was Anneke Van Woudenberg.

She''s investigated human rights abuses in the Great Lakes region of Africa since 1999.

Van Woudenberg: Here was this illustrious court in the Hague far away, the international community, describing their crimes as some of the worst, describing them as crimes against humanity.

It gave people, um, both hope and, I think, some recognition and some relief for what they had suffered.

Narrator: Whatever hopes were raised by the telecast were dashed when Lubanga was convicted solely for recruiting child soldiers.

The prosecutor had abandoned other more disturbing charges owing to lack of evidence.

Van Woudenberg: Thomas Lubanga was found guilty only for the recruitment of child soldiers and not for other horrific crimes that had been committed in this corner of Congo, ethnic massacres, torture, rape, so people didn''t find that all of what they had suffered was, in fact, being talked about or being heard, and for many people in Eastern Congo, justice is far away.

Narrator: The war in Congo lasted two decades and involved at times 7 armies and dozens of paramilitary groups.

It''s the deadliest conflict since World War II.

There''s no end in sight.

In South Kivu Province, a tentative peace has held long enough to assess the toll.

Roughly 75% of the people here have been forced to flee their homes at least once.

Fully half have endured the violent death of family members.

The infrastructure is shattered, basic supplies are scarce.

Conflict has left countless places in similar condition.

What makes the region unique is the epidemic of sexual violence that conflict has unleashed.

Dr. Nadine Neem Rukunghu is director of the sexual violence unit at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu.

She estimates that over 1/3 of the girls and women in the region have been raped, many brutally and on multiple occasions.

State authorities are incapable of ending the violence.

The international community has done little but condemn it.

But, um, why is she bleeding in the bladder?

Something must have happened somewhere.

No. There was also a fistula.

OK. All right.

Narrator: Demand for emergency care far exceeds the hospital''s limited resources.

For every woman taken in, another is turned away.

Among the post-operative patients on this day a 4-year-old girl.

Woman: This girl was raped 2 1/2 months ago, and she was very malnourished when she came except that she was totally damaged in the private parts, so, uh, we''ve had to fatten her up for two months, and then, uh, she had surgery about two weeks ago, which was successful, so she is basically bodily mended now.

Man: When children can''t be protected in the society, this can show only that the fabric of the society is completely broken.

Narrator: Dr. Denis Mukwege is director of Panzi Hospital and a surgeon specializing in sexual trauma.

He has worked with Physicians for Human Rights to train his staff in documenting sexual violence cases.

He''s hopeful that evidence gathered at his hospital will one day be used in criminal proceedings.

Mukwege: You know, can''t get justice result giving evidence, and, uh, I think that our duty is to try to collect this evidence.

We are keeping it until the victim can ask this evidence to go to justice so we can be ready to provide it.

Narrator: In 2015, the evidence was used in a military trial.

The majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by soldiers.

In response to mounting international outrage, the military here has started holding trials of soldiers suspected of rape and sexual abuse.

Woman: So few survivors dare to come forward to speak about what happened to them.

The stigma is unbelievable in their communities.

They''re rejected by their families, by their husband, their parents, their children.

They lose their livelihood.

They lose any sense of place in their community.

Narrator: Karen Naimer examines conflict-related sexual violence in sub-Saharan Africa.

She recently traveled to Bukavu to monitor one of the military trials of soldiers accused of sexual violence.

Naimer: What we found over time is that even those survivors who do dare to come forward often fail because of inadequate evidence supporting their allegations.

Narrator: One of the cases that Naimer monitored involved the sexual enslavement of an adolescent girl by a soldier.

During the trial, her identity was concealed by a head scarf.

Just minutes after the trial began, the military judges ordered the girl to remove her head coverings to confront her oppressor in open court.

The victim''s advocate objected, claiming the judge was violating rules and putting the victim at risk.

When the girl was still forced to reveal herself to the court, observers turned off the camera.

Naimer: This is a tactic that is not uncommon in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and there is an outcry amongst so many people we work with who are just desperate to find effective mechanisms to hold at least some of those responsible to--to account through a formal judicial process.

Narrator: The search for accountability isn''t limited to Congo.

Allegations of war crimes have increased dramatically in recent years.

So has the evidence of these crimes.

This amateur video documented the slaughter of thousands of Tamil civilians in 2009.

The video was authenticated by the United Nations, but it did not refer the case for prosecution.

Ryan: The digital age has made it possible, indeed inevitable, that these crimes can be recorded and--and shown from the most hostile environments.

The iPhone and YouTube have done more to bring these atrocities to the attention of the world than almost anything that came before.

[Gunfire] Syria, Libya, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, all of those places where these crimes have taken place have burst upon the world in a way that they never could have done before.

Narrator: The sole institution created to address crimes of this nature, the International Criminal Court, has to date indicted over 30 people and convicted 3.

Woman: The jurisdiction of the court is clear.

It''s to try war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Narrator: Its most recent trial ended in March 2016 with the conviction of Jean- Pierre Bemba.

Woman: The chamber finds Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo guilty for the following crimes-- murder as a war crime, rape as a crime against humanity, and pillaging as a war crime under the statute.

This hearing is concluded.

Different woman: All rise.

Narrator: This was the first such conviction in the court''s history, but the trial took 6 years and cost tens of millions of dollars.

Bensouda: We have our limitations.

The ICC is not yet the court that can intervene everywhere... [Explosion] wherever these crimes are--are committed.

States, whether they are powerful or not, have that responsibility and obligation to ensure that they investigate and prosecute these crimes.

Narrator: States have the obligation but rarely act.

The U.S., Russia, and China are not signatories to the ICC.

Smaller countries that are signatories have been unwilling to support the court, ignoring its warrants for the arrest of perpetrators.

While the geopolitics play out, the casualties mount.

The extreme toll that war takes on civilians hasn''t changed since the Second World War.

What has changed is international law and the ever-expanding penalties for war crimes.

Our capacity to kill has grown exponentially, and our capacity to build the social institutions like an international criminal court, which is necessary to curb this kind of killing, are crawling along slowly, crawling along slowly, and I''m pushing this rock up the hill, and it gets heavier all the time, but it''s moving forward, and so I''m encouraged that we are going in the right direction, but, uh, don''t expect some quick solutions.

Roht-Arriaza: All the attempts to move forward are--as much as anything else, they''re an act of imagination, they''re an act of saying, 'We can imagine a world where the rule of law 'applies to everyone, where some people don''t 'get to get away with murder just because they murdered so many people'... 'where if you commit 'these particularly awful kinds of crimes, 'no matter how long it takes, no matter how far you run, there will be a reckoning.'

Stover: Justice takes persistence... it takes courage, and most of all, it takes political will because unless governments will face up to the crimes that they''ve committed or are willing to investigate the crimes of other countries or other governments, then we''ll never get ourselves extricated from the past.

Ryan: We have the principles, we have the laws, we have the treaties, we have the courts, we have the mechanisms, we have all the tools that we need to do this job.

What we don''t have is the willingness to do it consistently and uniformly, to enforce these laws against those who are committing these crimes, and as long as that is what we''re faced with, look, the crimes are gonna continue.

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