Editor's Note: This blog post authored by Holly Dranginis originally appeared on the globalpost.com.
WASHINGTON — The judgment against Congolese former rebel commander Germain Katanga marked a milestone for the International Criminal Court (ICC).
For the first time in its 12 years, the court ruled on charges of sexual violence, although the result was disappointing, barely a whimper.
The ICC found Katanga guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder and pillage in the eastern Congolese village of Bogoro. It acquitted him on all charges of rape and sexual slavery.
Katanga’s conviction is an important step toward greater accountability for mass atrocity. But his acquittal of rape and sexual slavery reinforces a long-standing gap in international criminal justice and signals a hard truth that extends beyond what happened in Bogoro: the court is failing to adequately address sexual and gender-based crimes.
Sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict is a global epidemic. Widespread impunity has allowed it to continue. Rebel and army commanders use systematic rape and sexual enslavement as a military strategy to instill fear, rupture social networks and establish control.
The impact of these crimes causes ripple effects that extend beyond the battlefield and include trauma, displacement and life-threatening disease.