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2 J. Int'l Human. Legal Stud. 127 (2011)
Forced Marriage and the Special Court for Sierra Leone: Legal Advances and Conceptual Difficulties

handle is hein.journals/jihuleg2 and id is 131 raw text is: MARTINUS                                                              INERNATIONAL
NIJHOFF                                                                EGA L
P U BL IS HER s International Humanitarian Legal Studies 2 (2011) 127-158  brillnlliils
Forced Marriage and the Special Court for Sierra
Leone: Legal Advances and Conceptual Difficulties
Valerie Oosterveld*
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada
Forced marriage was endemic during the Sierra Leonean conflict. Girls and women forced to
serve as 'wives' to rebel soldiers were usually expected to submit to ongoing rape and to provide
domestic labour to their 'husbands'. Many of these 'wives' suffer from continuing stigmatization.
The Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone brought forced marriage charges as a
crime against humanity through the category of inhumane acts against Brima, Kamara and
Kanu, affiliated with the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), and Sesay, Kallon
and Gbao, affiliated with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). This article considers two
benefits stemming from the resulting jurisprudence: the naming of forced marriage as an
inhumane act and the acknowledgement of forced marriage as a violation not captured by other
legal terms. However, conceptual difficulties remain: how should forced marriage be defined so
as to fulfil the principle of nullum crimen sine lege? Is forced marriage more accurately labelled as
enslavement? And, is conjugality accurately captured as a defining feature of forced marriage? If
forced marriage is to be successfully prosecuted in other contexts - for example, in the
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia - then more attention must be paid to
resolving these questions.
Forced marriage; crimes against humanity; inhumane acts; enslavement
Forced marriage was endemic during the armed conflict in Sierra Leone. In
one study, sixty percent of girl soldiers interviewed reported that they had
served as 'wives' to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) or other fighting
The author wishes to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of
Canada for its funding support, Robert Curtis and Fanny Leveau for their research assistance,
and Margaret Martin and two anonymous reviewers for their comments.

@ Ko~ninklijke Brill NV, Ieiden, 2011

DOI 10.1163/187815211X587727

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