Sexual violence in war is nothing new. Accounts of women being raped by conquering armies as “spoils of war” go back centuries. But the resolution says rape is not just a by-product of war, but a military tactic.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council that violence against women had reached “unspeakable and pandemic proportions” in some places recovering from conflict.
Threat To Stability
And U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who chaired part of the session, said the world had now recognized that such violence was a threat to nations’ security.
“This world body now acknowledges that sexual violence in conflict zones is indeed a security concern,” Rice said. “We affirm that sexual violence profoundly affects not only the health and safety of women but the economic and social stability of their nations.”
The resolution also urges all parties involved in armed conflict to take immediate action to protect civilians. It passed unanimously, despite resistance from some council members — including Russia — that initially did not want to hold the session.
The resolution was welcomed as a “historic achievement” by Human Rights Watch, which said the world body had all too often ignored the problem.
In recent times, the Balkan wars of the 1990s alerted the world to the use of rape as a weapon of conflict.
“Even on Croatian territory, in the heart of Europe, rape was used as a method of intimidation and terror during the aggression to which Croatia was exposed at the beginning of the 1990s,” said Croatia’s Deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor. “Bosnia-Herzegovina, which has been tormented by the same source of aggression, suffered the use of rape and sexual violence as instruments of ethnic cleansing.”
‘Tool Of War’
These days, the problem is worst in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Major General Patrick Cammaert told the meeting he witnessed the impact of rape as a UN peacekeeping commander in eastern Congo.
He described such violence as a “particularly potent tool of war,” as it dehumanizes its victims.
“It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict,” he said.
It’s not just warring factions that are accused of rape. UN peacekeepers themselves have been accused of sexual offenses in several countries. The resolution calls for more vigilance in stopping and preventing such abuses.
Its practical impact, however, remains unclear. Ban is expected to report back on its implementation in a year.
with agency reports
UN denounces rape as ‘war crime’
Condoleezza Rice (R) and Ban Ki-Moon
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The UN Security Council on Thursday demanded an end to persistent sexual violence during armed conflict, calling it a war crime and a component of genocide.
Approved by all 15 members, Council Resolution 1820 “demands the immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians with immediate effect.”
It also urged that “all parties to armed conflict immediately take appropriate measures to protect civilians, including women and girls, from all forms of sexual violence.”
Chaired by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the council said “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.”
It indirectly threatened suspected war-time rapists with prosecution before The Hague-based International Criminal Court.
The resolution was quickly welcomed by Human Rights Watch.
“The UN Security Council’s new resolution on sexual violence is a historic achievement for a body that has all too often ignored the plight of women and girls in conflict,” the rights group said in a statement.
“Human Rights Watch applauds the council for setting out in the resolution a clear path to systematic information-gathering on sexual violence.”
Before the vote, in the day-long debate called by the United States, this month’s council chairman, Rice spoke strongly against war-time rape.
“Rape is a crime that can never be condoned. Yet women and girls in conflict situations around the world have been subjected to widespread and deliberate acts of sexual violence,” she said.
“Today’s resolution establishes a mechanism for bringing those atrocities to light,” the US chief diplomat said.
She stressed the resolution directs the UN secretary general to prepare an action plan for collecting data on the use of sexual violence in armed conflict and then reporting that information to the council.
Rice cited the example of Myanmar where she said “soldiers have regularly raped women and girls even as young as eight years old.
“What is tragic also in that country is that instead of being allowed to take the office as the elected leader of Burma’s government, (opposition leader) Aung San Suu Kyi is marking her (63rd) birthday this very day under house arrest,” the US chief diplomat said.
“We cannot forget as we examine this issue other women activists who struggle for freedom under violent environments,” she added.
Rice also referred to widespread acts of sexual violence in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan.
The US diplomat highlighted acts of sexual violence perpetrated by UN peacekeepers in several countries around the world.
“As an international community we have a special responsibility to punish perpetrators of sexual violence who are representatives of international organizations,” she noted.
In his remarks, UN chief Ban Ki-moon stressed the world body was “profoundly committed” to its zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation or abuse by our own personnel.”
“Violence against women has reached unspeakable and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from conflict,” he said.
“We have to view this problem in the broader context of women’s empowerment … We must do far more to involve women in conflict prevention, peace negotiations and recovery after the guns fall silent.”
France’s secretary of state for human rights Rama Yade said those responsible for sexual violence amid armed conflict should be hunted down and brought to trial even before the ICC.
Sexual Violence Threatens Stability, UN Council Says (Update1)
By Bill Varner
June 19 (Bloomberg) — Sexual violence against women and girls in war zones impedes the restoration of peace and security, the United Nations Security Council agreed today at the urging of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“For years there has been a debate about whether or not sexual violence against woman is a security issue for this forum to address,” Rice said as she opened the Security Council meeting. “I am proud that today we have responded to that lingering question with a resounding yes. We affirm that sexual violence profoundly affects not only the health and safety of women but the economic and social stability of their nations.”
Rice cited the rape of girls as young as 8 years of age by soldiers in Myanmar, also known as Burma. At the same time, she noted that Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest today, her 63rd birthday, as she has been for 12 of the past 18 years.
British Attorney General Patricia Scotland decried recent attacks on women in Zimbabwe by what she described as “hired thugs” of President Robert Mugabe, and the murder yesterday of the wife of the newly elected mayor of the capital, Harare. Scotland also pointed to violence against women in the Darfur region of Sudan and Somalia.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and representatives of more than 60 nations attended the meeting, which concluded with the adoption of a U.S.-written resolution committing the council to new steps to combat sexual violence against women. The U.S. overcame resistance from China, Russia, Indonesia and Vietnam to hold the meeting and win a 15 to 0 vote for the measure.
“Violence against women has reached unspeakable and pandemic proportions in societies attempting to recover from conflict,” Ban told the Security Council. “When you adopt resolutions with strong language on sexual and gender-based violence, the UN can respond more forcefully.”
Ban reiterated the UN’S determination to eliminate incidents of sexual abuse perpetrated by peacekeeping troops, which have been reported in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other war zones. Six soldiers who served in Sudan and the Congo were sent back to their home countries for possible prosecution for sexual misconduct in the past two years.
The resolution demands that all nations engaged in armed conflict immediately take steps to protect women and girls from all forms of sexual violence, and says rape and other such acts can be considered war crimes. Ban is asked to report in one year on the implementation of the resolution, which includes a determination to impose UN sanctions on violators.
In Washington, Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware, urged Rice and President George W. Bush to support the International Violence Against Women Act in Congress that he co- wrote with Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.
Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Lugar, the panel’s ranking Republican, said in an article for the newspaper “The Hill” that the act would authorize $175 million a year to combat sexual violence against women in “10 to 20 targeted countries” over a five-year period.
“One in three women worldwide will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime,” Biden and Lugar said in the article. “In some countries, that’s true for 70 percent of women. From the trafficking of women in eastern Europe, to `honor’ killings in the Middle East, to the use of rape as a weapon of war in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, violence against women and girls crosses all borders.”