World Court on War as Crime at the 2004 World Social Forum

World Court on War as Crime
The World Court on War as Crime will listen to women and men mostly from the global south who have been victims of and survived wars and conflict.
The Asian Women’s Human Rights Council, El Taller International and their partner organizations in different regions of the world, we invite you to the World Court on War as Crime focussing on U.S. war crimes.
The Court will be held at the World Social Forum, Mumbai, India on January 18, 2004 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The World Court on War as Crime is being organized by the Asia Women’s Human Rights Council and El Taller International in association with our partner organizations: the Institute of Black Studies, University of Natal, South Africa; the Centre for Economic and Social Rights, USA; the Institute of Philosophy, Cuba; the Centre for Development Studies, India; Afro-Arab Research Centre, Egypt; International Action Committee, USA; Colombia Women Consensus, Colombia; Center for Women’s Studies, Croatia; PRATEC, Peru and several other civil society organizations and academic institutions from different regions in the world.

The World Court on War as Crime will listen to women and men mostly from the global south who have been victims of and survived wars and conflict; voices of the hibakusha, the victims of nuclear terrorism in the Pacific, of chemical warfare in Vietnam (Agent Orange), of bacteriological warfare in Cuba, of depleted uranium in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq; of the racist wars against terror, of the new weapons of mass destruction like economic blockades and sanctions, of the new economic order that is perpetrating new forms of impoverishment. The statement of the Jury and the expert witnesses with the testimonies of the women and men will hopefully offer a challenge to the dominant human rights discourse and the dominant paradigm of politics.

The World Court on War as Crime, through personal testimonies of violence and of resistance, analyses of expert witnesses and inspiring vision statements of a Jury of wise women and men, will seek to understand the roots of all wars in our times towards evolving more holistic perspectives and a Charter for Peace in the new millennium: a millennium in which we must begin to make all violence and the violence of all wars, unthinkable.

These testimonies will be listened to in six sessions. One important session will be on Iraq: we will hear testimonies and analyses from the violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, to the violence of economic sanctions, the use of depleted uranium, military tribunals, the destruction of the lives, livelihoods and lifeworlds of the Iraqi people.

The other sessions will hear testimonies of the nuclear, biological and chemical wars of the US, to the US military bases, assassinations/ coups to the war against the people in the US – the indigenous, the blacks, the homeless. We will also listen to expert witnesses on US economic crimes.

There will be testimonies of pain, and testimonies of resistance.

The testimonies will be received by the Jury.

The Jurors are visionaries who will help us to search beyond the frames of the dominant discourse of knowledge, of politics; seeking alternative perspectives, bringing the wisdoms hidden in the river beneath the river. For, who will deny that the world today needs to break new ground, to find new understandings of justice, of dignity, to discover a new political imaginary. Some members of the Jury include: Ramsey Clarke, USA; Luisa Morgantini, Italy; Samir Amin, Senegal/Egypt, Winnie Mandela, South Africa; Denis Halliday, Ireland; Fatima Meer, South Africa; Genevieve Vaughan, USA; Mustafa Barghouti, Palestine; Biljana Kasic, Croatia.

We should perhaps at this point tell you a little of the story of the Courts of Women that was a dream of many years ago, over thirteen years ago.

It began in Asia and through the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council (AWHRC) with several other women’s human rights groups has held seven Courts in the Asia Pacific region, in the last ten years.

The Courts of Women are attempting to create a new space for women; to define a new politics. The Courts of Women are public hearings: the ‘Court’ is used in a symbolic way. In the Courts, the voices of the victims/survivors are listened to. Women bring their personal testimonies of violence to the Court. They are sacred spaces where women, speaking in a language of suffering; name the crimes, seeking redress, even reparation.

While the Courts listen to the voices of the victims/survivors, it also listens to the voices of women who resist, who rebel, who refuse to turn against their dreams. It hears of survival in the dailiness of life; it hears of women struggling for work, wages, their rights to the land, it hears of how they survive- of their knowledges, their wisdoms that have been inaudible, invisible. It hears challenges to the dominant human rights discourse, whose frames have excluded the knowledges of women.

The Courts of Women are an attempt to write counter hegemonic histories by creating a space where we can listen with care to the voices speaking in their own centre. And in re-writing history and retrieving memory, the Courts of Women not only hear of the need to extend the dominant human rights discourse from the experience and perspectives of women and men on the margins; they speak too of a new generation of human rights.

The Courts of Women seek to weave together the objective reality (through analyses of the issues) with the subjective testimonies of the women; the personal with the political; the logical with the lyrical (through the video testimonies, artistic images and poetry) moving the Court to connect the rational with the affective, the dancer with the dance, urging us to discern fresh insights, offering us other ways to know, inviting us to seek deeper layers of knowledge.

There is an urgent need to challenge the centralizing logic of the master narrative implicit in the dominant discourses –of class, of caste, of gender, of race. The dominant logic is a logic of violence and exclusion, a logic of superior and inferior, a logic of civilised and uncivilised,

This centralising logic must be decentered, must be interrupted, even disrupted.

The first Asian Court of Women on violence (1992) was held in Lahore, Pakistan with the Simorgh Collective and focussed on domestic violence, from dowry burning to acid throwing, to crimes of honour, to rape and women battering.

The Asian Court on the Violence of War against Women was held in Tokyo, Japan (1993). It heard the testimonies of women victims of the wars in Asia from the second world war (comfort women) to Vietnam, Cambodia, and women survivors of the US military bases in the Pacific. The comfort women who were the military sexual slaves of the Japanese army, broke a silence of almost fifty years. The Awhrc organized this Court in collaboration with sixty four women's human rights groups in Japan.

The Asian Court of Women on the Violence of Development was held in Bangalore, India (1994). It brought together testimonies of women who were victims of the development model - dams displacement and internal refugees, to nuclear reactors and radiation related illnesses, to landless peasants, to Bhopal (the world's worst industrial disaster), to women victims of a growing consumerist culture (e.g. dowry burning, sex trafficking for tourism, etc.) This Court was organized with Vimochana and several other women's groups in India.

The Asian Court of Women on Trafficking was held in Katmandu, Nepal and focussed on the increasing trafficking of women in South Asia. The women trafficked are often only seven/eight years old; because of the spread of AIDS in Asia, the trafficked women are often children.

The International Court of Women on Reproductive Rights and Genetic Engineering was held during the International Conference on Population in (1994) in Cairo, Egypt. This Court was held in collaboration with Ubinig, Bangladesh.

The Nga Wahine Pasifika, the Court of Women in the Pacific was held in Auckland, Aotearoa in September 1999. It focused on nuclear issues and land rights. Because of the nuclear testing, nuclear waste dumping and uranium mining in the region, women often give birth to children who are deformed. Mothers in Micronesia give birth to masses of flesh that are referred to as the jelly babies of Micronesia. The Court was held within the frame of the fundamental right to life. What does the right to life mean to the jelly babies of Micronesia and the over sixteen million victims of the nuclear establishment? Where do sovereign people go to seek redressal and reparation for the violence perpetrated by sovereign nation states?

In June 1995, El Taller initiated the first Arab Court of Women, Mahkmet El Nissa with women's and human rights organizations in Tunisia and Lebanon. The Court was held in Beirut, Lebanon; and heard the testimonies of women on the different forms of violence in the Arab world. Women, victims of war and occupation, fundamentalism and cultural violence (female genital mutilation, forced feeding, honour crimes...) spoke of their pain and survival as also their resistance.

In Beijing, China (1995), with over one hundred women's human rights organizations from all over the world, the AWHRC held the World Court on Violence against Women in Huairou, at the NGO conference. El Taller and the Mahkamet El Nissa were among the sponsors of the Court.

The Africa Court of Women, Mahakama ya Mama wa Africa was held in July 1999 at the United Nations, Nairobi, Kenya by El Taller-Africa and other women’s and human rights ngos. The issues of the Court ranged from the abduction and killing of women, female circumcision to poverty and the feminization of poverty.

In March 2001, with the regional Courts of Women, we held the World Court of Women Against War, For Peace in Cape Town, South Africa. The World Court, through the voices and visions of women, focussed on the wars of this century, the wars against women, the changing faces of wars. For this century has not only seen the increasing technologisation and nuclearisation of wars that have become destructive on a genocidal scale, but it has revealed the other faces of modern wars. Wars in times of peace. Besides the wars of armed conflict, the Courts also looked at the wars of colonisation; the wars of racism; the wars of globalisation; the wars of poverty; the wars against cultures and civilizations. The World Court of Women, through personal testimonies of violence and of resistance, analyses of expert witnesses and inspiring vision statements of a jury of wise women and men, attempted to understand the roots of all wars in our times towards evolving more holistic perspectives for peace in the new millennium. A millennium in which we must begin to make wars against women and the violence of all wars, unthinkable.

In August 2001, we held the World Court of Women against Racism at the NGO Forum, World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa. The Court focussed on the violence of colonialism, contemporary forms of racism and apartheid; creation and extermination of the other.

In March 2002, El Taller International together with the Cuba Women's Federation and the Institute of Philosophy held the International Court of Women against the Economic Blockade in Havana, Cuba. The Court focussed on the violence of the economic blockade and its effects on women and children. It was an attempt to shift the terrain of blockades and sanctions from the political to the humanitarian. The Court also documented the testimonies of the women and children on the violence of the sanctions. The World Court against the Economic Blockade in Cuba was also held in January 2003 at the World Social Forum, Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The South Asia Court of Women on Trafficking and Hiv and Aids was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh together with the United Nations Development Programme. The Court focussed on the increasing trafficking of women and its interconnectedness with the Hiv and Aids in South Asia. The women trafficked are often adolescents because of socio-cultural beliefs related to Aids.

All these Courts are located in the global South. In the Arab world, Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Central and South America.

You will know therefore, that while the Courts are deeply symbolic and an attempt to define a new space for women; a new politics, they also provide a forum for human rights education and have been an extremely sensitive and powerful media to reveal the interconnections between the various forms of personal and public violence against women and men in different societies. Violence that has been increasing and escalating; a violence that has become brutal.

The twentieth century has been a century of wars: much of the violence and escalation of crimes against south. While we name the crimes, seeking redressal and reparation, we will also seek to find new visions for our times. We hope that together we can evolve and create a Charter for Peace; one that will dare not to be trapped either in the universalisms of the dominant discourse, or the discourse of the culture specific, but one that will proffer universalisms that have been born out of a dialogue of cultures and civilizations. An alternative discourse that will include the knowledges, symbols and visions of the South.

Many of you have been with us in the creation and holding of these Regional Courts. Many of you were among the over one hundred supporting women’s and human rights organisations that extended their support to the first World Court of Women held in Beijing 1995. And have continued to express your solidarity for the Courts of Women.

We thank you for the strength and encouragement that your solidarity gave us.

We invite you or a representative of your organisation to participate in the Court. Knowing of your concerns and involvement in these issues, we invite you very specially to support the World Court of on War as Crime. To enable us to include you among the friends of the Court, please send to us a letter of acceptance and solidarity.

We would request you to send us the letter by fax or email to our offices in Tunis and/or India. If you would wish for more information to enable your participation, please do contact us:

El Taller International
Tel: 216 71 752457/752057
Fax. 216 71 751 570
Email: or

Asian Women’s Human Rights Council
Tel. 9180 549 2781/2/3
Tel/Fax: 91805492782
Email: or

We look forward to receiving your expression of support and solidarity.

With kind wishes.


Corinne Kumar
International Coordinator
World Court on War as Crime