Kirsten Keith, International lawyer, specialist in international humanitarian Law, was presenting a public seminar in Bangalow about protecting women in war.
Kirsten Keith, International lawyer, specialist in international humanitarian Law, was presenting a public seminar in Bangalow about protecting women in war. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

She prosecuted war criminals

LAWS on sexual violence in war was the topic at Kirsten Keith's seminar in Bangalow yesterday.

The former legal officer for the prosecution at the Special Court for Sierra Leone now lives in Bexhill.

Ms Keith is a specialist in international humanitarian law who spent more than 10 years working for the prosecution at the international criminal trials for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The trials prosecuted and convicted perpetrators of sexual violence against women.

She was also part of the team that prosecuted Charles Taylor, the former warlord who was sentenced to 50 years in prison last year for his role in atrocities committed in Sierra Leone during the 1990s.

The seminar yesterday was facilitated by Red Cross Australia and focused on the development of the law against sexual violence during armed conflict, and looking at the different tribunals that have been set up and some of the groundbreaking the tribunals have seen.

Having been a part, from the beginning, of the first war crimes trial since the Second World War when she was working at the Yugoslav tribunal, she said her job had been very gratifying and very humbling.

"You get to meet a lot of the victims and witnesses and it's very humbling to actually meet them and have them share their stories with you," she said.

"They've been subject to really horrendous atrocities and yet throughout everything they've experienced, they remain dignified and they continue to get on with their lives - they don't play the victim really at all."

Having seen the law come so far, she still thinks there is a long way to go.

"I'm pleased the law has got to where it is, and it's very clear that it is a crime, but now what I really want to see is more prosecutions - domestically as well as internationally.

"The UN tribunals can only do so much - there really needs to be a push now on a domestic level."

"It's good to see now it's finally at the forefront of the media."


Your chance to win Simple Pleasures photo competition

Your chance to win Simple Pleasures photo competition

Love is all you need for Bruns photo comp

EDITORIAL: An idea even bigger than this headline

EDITORIAL: An idea even bigger than this headline

Strap yourself in fellow dreamers

Local Partners