Nobel laureate demands justice for victims of sexual violence

United Nations ( Associated Press) – In Ukraine, there have been allegations of sexual violence against women by Russian soldiers. In northern Ethiopia, a woman taken to an Eritrean Defense Forces camp was raped by 27 soldiers and diagnosed with AIDS. The bodies of a woman and two girls were found days after they were abducted and raped by armed fighters in the Central African Republic. And in Iraq, 2,800 Yazidi women and children have been prisoners of the Islamic State extremist group for eight years, many of whom have been victims of sexual violence.

UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patton and Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority member Nadia Murad are some of the examples raised on Wednesday at a UN Security Council meeting on accountability for such acts in conflicts. Forced into sexual slavery in 2014, she escaped her Islamic State captives.

Patton’s opening words were targeted at the most powerful UN body, which has approved five resolutions focused on preventing and addressing conflict-related sexual violence. What do those proposals mean for a woman in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Myanmar or Ethiopia’s northern Tigre region right now, she asked?

In this time of “great global unrest marked by many crises”, he said, the world has seen “increased militarization, including the pandemic of coups, that have turned back the clock on women’s rights.” And every new war has seen humanitarian tragedies “including new waves of war’s oldest, most silent and least condemned crime” – sexual violence and rape and others in countries whose victims “call for justice and redress. cry.”

Patton said the distinction between commitments and compliance and reality by the Security Council is clear: The latest UN report covering conflicts in 18 countries documents 3,293 UN-verified cases of sexual violence in 2021, up from 2020 There is a significant increase of 800 cases in comparison. Again, she said, the highest number – 1,016 – was recorded in Congo.

Patton cited examples in other conflict areas as well: two women from the Rohingya minority in Myanmar’s Chin state were gang-raped by government troops resulting in unwanted pregnancies; A woman was allegedly raped at gunpoint by a Puntland police officer in Somalia where she said “kidnapping, rape and forced marriage are rampant;” Documented cases of sexual violence against female ex-combatants and their families in Colombia; and the torture and murder of a female police officer eight months pregnant in the Ghor province of Afghanistan.

The UN Special Representative said that some cases of courts convicting criminals “still have exceptions that deny the rule of justice.” Justice must be delivered in communities as well as in the courts, and victims should be compensated to rebuild their broken lives, stressing that “justice, peace and security are inextricably linked.”

Murad said in moments of global instability – such as today’s world shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, a climate crisis and war – issues such as conflict-related sexual violence are “pushed aside as if they are somehow real.” issues are secondary.” But she added, “the truth is that this is the moment when protecting, supporting and investing in women and girls should be an immediate priority.”

History shows that brutality comes to the fore when conflict begins, and “we are seeing this in Ukraine as we speak, with reports of sexual violence that should concern us.” Later, she told reporters, “My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine, especially the women and girls who are facing this cruelty.”

“Sexual violence is not a side effect of conflict,” Murad said. “It’s a strategy as old as war.”

He said last year a German court in a historic decision convicted an Islamic State member of genocide in connection with the death of a Yazidi girl. But despite evidence documenting atrocities perpetrated by IS against women and girls, he said extremist perpetrators have faced few, if any, consequences.

Murad said the survivors needed “more than a moral outrage” and urged the Security Council to vote to refer the Islamic State extremist group to the International Criminal Court for genocide and sexual violence. Against the Yazidis, meanwhile, he urged other countries to follow Germany’s example and use the principle of universal jurisdiction to prosecute alleged criminals for war crimes.

“If you want to set up resistance, if you want to reassure Yazidi women and survivors everywhere that you stand with us, don’t delay justice,” he said.

Britain’s Minister of State, Lord Tariq Ahmed, who chaired the meeting, joined him in launching “The Murad Code”, which aims to inform investigators, journalists and others in the international community about how to reduce the burden on survivors of sexual violence. And how to support them for sure. So that their experiences can be recorded safely and the quest for justice can be strengthened.

“The obstacles in the path of justice must be removed,” he said. “So ultimately, it’s all about the survivors, that they know what their options are. … They have to be the center of our response.”