Brigid Inder has been named the special gender adviser to Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, or the ICC. With more than two decades of working in international and domestic justice, women’s human rights and as a political adviser in United Nations negotiations, Inder’s new role is to advise Bensouda’s office on gender issues that include sexual violence, signaling the concerted direction the court plans to take as Bensouda’s nine-year term begins.
“Brigid Inder has been a leading advocate for ensuring that the investigation and prosecution of gender crimes is a top priority at the court,” said Matthew Heaphy, deputy convener of the American Nongovernmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court, a program of the Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights. “She and the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice have kept the heat on the court to make sure rape and sex crimes are prosecuted and that there is a gender aspect to everything that the ICC does.”
Her role as special adviser to the court will be unpaid, and she told PassBlue that she can juggle her new “external” role at the ICC with the nonprofit Hague-based group she leads, the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, because the latter has a “strong management team in place.” The special adviser term is one year, with chances for renewal.
She replaces Catharine MacKinnon, the American feminist, writer and academic who has been the special gender adviser since 2008. Bensouda said in a statement that MacKinnon contributed to the prosecution office’s “progressive gender policies.”
Inder, 47, is from New Zealand and has a degree in physical science and education from the University of Otago. As executive director of the Women’s Initiatives group, she has been working to strengthen the ICC’s focus on gender-based crimes and related issues. The group publicly endorsed Bensouda, formerly the court’s deputy prosecutor, as a candidate for the chief prosecutor’s job; the group is known for its annual ICC “gender report card” and for being the first nongovernmental organization to file an amicus brief before the court and others thereafter, including a brief pertaining to Thomas Lubanga, the convicted Congolese warlord.
The Women’s Initiative group has been striving to bring more sexual violence charges and prosecutions to the court, but it has been an uphill battle. Many of these charges end up being dismissed, a problem, Inder has said, related to court “leadership” and difficulties in investigating such crimes firsthand in conflict zones.
Inder was involved in the court’s creation through the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice, which from 1997 to 2003 helped negotiate the ICC’s governing treaty, the Rome Statute. The caucus then became the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice in 2004, earning support through government grants.
Inder’s immediate priorities as special adviser are to “support the internal policy on gender issues” at the court, she said. That involves building up training, strengthening some processes, revising some strategic approaches, creating new positions and bringing in “new talents.”
She briefly discussed the situation in Congo, where she worked in the field and where sexual violence in the conflict area is rampant, saying the court “may be the only institution capable of breaking these cycles of conflict-related violence.”
“It could be that justice in the ICC could be the circuit breaker,” she said of the Congolese crimes.