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The next chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court pledged Tuesday to strengthen efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of sexual and gender crimes.

A day after her election by the 119 countries that support the tribunal, Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda said too often gender crimes go unreported and unpunished and the victims are trivialized, denigrated, threatened and silenced, which enables the abuses to continue unimpeded.

In its first cases, she said, the ICC has sent the message that this is no longer acceptable and must stop.

The International Criminal Court, which began operating in 2002, is the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal. It is a court of last resort, stepping in only when countries are unwilling or unable to prosecute alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

At the moment, the ICC is dealing with cases from Congo, the Central African Republic, Uganda involving the Lord's Resistance Army, the Darfur conflict in Sudan, the recent Libyan uprising, and post-election violence in Kenya and Ivory Coast.

At present, crimes such as rape, sexual slavery, and forced prostitution and pregnancy are alleged in some cases before the court in all of these situations except Libya, where an investigation of alleged gender-based crimes is still under way.



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