Volume 20, Issue 1, Spring 2006
Just War Theory, Crimes of War, and War Rape
Recent decades have witnessed rape and sexual violence used on such a massive scale and often in a widespread and systematic program that the international community has had to recognize that rape and sexual violence are not just war crimes but might be crimes against humanity or even genocide. I suggest that just war theory, while limited in its applicability to mass rape, might nevertheless offer some framework for making the determination of when sexual violence and rape constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide. In addition, just war theory can provide the normative justification individual soldiers need to resist orders and actions that demonstrate egregious moral breakdown as found in instances of mass rape and systematic use of sexual violence, and just war criteria demonstrate that the use of rape and sexual violence in war time can never be legitimated, especially in the case of prisoner interrogation.