Rape: A weapon of war

With very little fanfare U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice used her time at the UN recently to get a resolution through the Security Council that recognizes rape as an instrument of war (report from Global Sociology Blog).

UN Security Council (UN photo)

UN Security Council (UN photo)

Unfortunately the act got very little coverage in the U.S. press, so far as I can tell. (Please feel free to post links to articles you know about in comments.)

Mark this carefully, you’ll not read it often here: Kudos and thank you to Rice and the Bush Administration.

The UN News Centre reported:

In a resolution adopted unanimously after a day-long debate on women, peace and security, Council members said women and girls are consistently targeted during conflicts “as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.”

The effect is to also prolong or deepen conflicts and to exacerbate already dire security and humanitarian conditions, particularly when the perpetrators of violent crimes against women go unpunished for their actions.

The resolution demands that all parties immediate stop sexual violence against civilians and begin taking measures, from the training of troops and upholding of military discipline procedures, to protect women and girls.

Sexual violence crimes should be excluded from amnesties reached at the end of conflicts, the 15-member Council added, calling on States to also strengthen their judicial and health-care systems to provide better assistance to victims of violence.

The resolution was adopted after dozens of speakers told the Council about the appalling effects of sexual violence during armed conflicts, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying the problem had reached “unspeakable and pandemic proportions” in some countries.

Mr. Ban announced he will soon appoint a UN envoy tasked entirely with advocating for an end to violence against women.

Opening today’s meeting, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the truest test of the will of the international community was the protection it gave to the most vulnerable.

“When women and girls are raped, we cannot be silent… we must be their advocates,” Ms. Rice said.

See a second report here. Security Council report and resolution text here. The text of Resolution 1820 (2008) is listed below the fold.

International law develops quickly, but often out of sight of most people. This action is another in a long string of international agreements that build on the laws of war, and the laws of human rights. As part of the string of treaties including the Geneva Conventions on war, this offers a 21st century turn on the laws that gave rise to the International Red Cross, the rules of war, the war crimes trials following World War II, the drive for NATO and the UN to intervene in Bosnia, and it provides commentary on events and genocides in Turkey, World War II China and Europe, Cambodia, Guatemala, San Salvador, Rwanda, Congo and Darfur — and other places we don’t even know about yet. Each class will differ; these materials suggest topics for in-class debates about current issues seen through a lens of the experience of history.

The resolution and debates offer opportunities for Document Based Questions for AP and pre-AP course practice.

A look at some of the events in a reverse chronology of the issue, from the archives of the New York Times, reveals both the difficulty of getting this simple acknowledgement made, and the horrors of rape as a tactic or weapon.

Other Resources:

The text of UN Security Council Resolution 1820 (2008) (text from the UN Security Council):

The Security Council,

Reaffirming its commitment to the continuing and full implementation of resolution 1325 (2000), 1612 (2005) and 1674 (2006) and recalling the statements of its president of 31 October 2001 (Security Council/PRST/2001/31), 31 October 2002 (Security Council/PRST/2002/32), 28 October 2004 (Security Council/PRST/2004/40), 27 October 2005 (Security Council/PRST/2005/52), 8 November 2006 (Security Council/PRST/2006/42), 7 March 2007 (Security Council/PRST/2007/5), and 24 October 2007 (Security Council/PRST/2007/40);

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Reaffirming also the resolve expressed in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, including by ending impunity and by ensuring the protection of civilians, in particular women and girls, during and after armed conflicts, in accordance with the obligations States have undertaken under international humanitarian law and international human rights law;

Recalling the commitments of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (A/52/231) as well as those contained in the outcome document of the twenty-third Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century” (A/S‑23/10/Rev.1), in particular those concerning sexual violence and women in situations of armed conflict;

Reaffirming also the obligations of States Parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Optional Protocol thereto, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols thereto, and urging states that have not yet done so to consider ratifying or acceding to them,

Noting that civilians account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict; that women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group; and that sexual violence perpetrated in this manner may in some instances persist after the cessation of hostilities;

Recalling its condemnation in the strongest terms of all sexual and other forms of violence committed against civilians in armed conflict, in particular women and children;

Reiterating deep concern that, despite its repeated condemnation of violence against women and children in situations of armed conflict, including sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, and despite its calls addressed to all parties to armed conflict for the cessation of such acts with immediate effect, such acts continue to occur, and in some situations have become systematic and widespread, reaching appalling levels of brutality,

Recalling the inclusion of a range of sexual violence offences in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the statutes of the ad hoc international criminal tribunals,

Reaffirming the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peacebuilding, and stressing the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution,

Deeply concerned also about the persistent obstacles and challenges to women’s participation and full involvement in the prevention and resolution of conflicts as a result of violence, intimidation and discrimination, which erode women’s capacity and legitimacy to participate in post-conflict public life, and acknowledging the negative impact this has on durable peace, security and reconciliation, including post-conflict peacebuilding,

Recognizing that States bear primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of their citizens, as well as all individuals within their territory as provided for by relevant international law,

Reaffirming that parties to armed conflict bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of affected civilians,

Welcoming the ongoing coordination of efforts within the United Nations system, marked by the inter-agency initiative “United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict,” to create awareness about sexual violence in armed conflicts and post-conflict situations and, ultimately, to put an end to it,

“1. Stresses that sexual violence, when used or commissioned as a tactic of war in order to deliberately target civilians or as a part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilian populations, can significantly exacerbate situations of armed conflict and may impede the restoration of international peace and security, affirms in this regard that effective steps to prevent and respond to such acts of sexual violence can significantly contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, and expresses its readiness, when considering situations on the agenda of the Council, to, where necessary, adopt appropriate steps to address widespread or systematic sexual violence;

“2. Demands the immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians with immediate effect;

“3. Demands that all parties to armed conflict immediately take appropriate measures to protect civilians, including women and girls, from all forms of sexual violence, which could include, inter alia, enforcing appropriate military disciplinary measures and upholding the principle of command responsibility, training troops on the categorical prohibition of all forms of sexual violence against civilians, debunking myths that fuel sexual violence, vetting armed and security forces to take into account past actions of rape and other forms of sexual violence,and evacuation of women and children under imminent threat of sexual violence to safety; and requests the Secretary-General, where appropriate, to encourage dialogue to address this issue in the context of broader discussions of conflict resolution between appropriate UN officials and the parties to the conflict, taking into account, inter alia, the views expressed by women of affected local communities;

“4. Notes that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide, stresses the need for the exclusion of sexual violence crimes from amnesty provisions in the context of conflict resolution processes, and calls upon Member States to comply with their obligations for prosecuting persons responsible for such acts, to ensure that all victims of sexual violence, particularly women and girls, have equal protection under the law and equal access to justice, and stresses the importance of ending impunity for such acts as part of a comprehensive approach to seeking sustainable peace, justice, truth, and national reconciliation;

“5. Affirms its intention, when establishing and renewing state-specific sanctions regimes, to take into consideration the appropriateness of targeted and graduated measures against parties to situations of armed conflict who commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls in situations of armed conflict;

“6. Requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Security Council, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and its Working Group and relevant States, as appropriate, to develop and implement appropriate training programs for all peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel deployed by the United Nations in the context of missions as mandated by the Council to help them better prevent, recognize and respond to sexual violence and other forms of violence against civilians;

“7. Requests the Secretary-General to continue and strengthen efforts to implement the policy of zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping operations; and urges troop and police contributing countries to take appropriate preventative action, including pre-deployment and in-theatre awareness training, and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel;

“8. Encourages troop and police contributing countries, in consultation with the Secretary-General, to consider steps they could take to heighten awareness and the responsiveness of their personnel participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations to protect civilians, including women and children, and prevent sexual violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations, including wherever possible the deployment of a higher percentage of women peacekeepers or police;

“9. Requests the Secretary-General to develop effective guidelines and strategies to enhance the ability of relevant United Nations peacekeeping operations, consistent with their mandates, to protect civilians, including women and girls, from all forms of sexual violence and to systematically include in his written reports to the Council on conflict situations his observations concerning the protection of women and girls and recommendations in this regard;

“10. Requests the Secretary-General and relevant United Nations agencies, inter alia, through consultation with women and women-led organizations as appropriate,to develop effective mechanisms for providing protection from violence, including in particular sexual violence, to women and girls in and around United Nations managed refugee and internally displaced persons camps, as well as in all disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration processes, and in justice and security sector reform efforts assisted by the United Nations;

“11. Stresses the important role the Peacebuilding Commission can play by including in its advice and recommendations for post-conflict peacebuilding strategies, where appropriate, ways to address sexual violence committed during and in the aftermath of armed conflict, and in ensuring consultation and effective representation of women’s civil society in its country-specific configurations, as part of its wider approach to gender issues;

“12. Urges the Secretary-General and his Special Envoys to invite women to participate in discussions pertinent to the prevention and resolution of conflict, the maintenance of peace and security, and post-conflict peacebuilding, and encourages all parties to such talks to facilitate the equal and full participation of women at decision-making levels;

“13. Urges all parties concerned, including Member States, United Nations entities and financial institutions, to support the development and strengthening of the capacities of national institutions, in particular of judicial and health systems, and of local civil society networks in order to provide sustainable assistance to victims of sexual violence in armed conflict and post-conflict situations;

“14. Urges appropriate regional and sub-regional bodies in particular to consider developing and implementing policies, activities, and advocacy for the benefit of women and girls affected by sexual violence in armed conflict;

“15. Also requests the Secretary-General to submit a report to the Council by 30 June 2009 on the implementation of this resolution in the context of situations which are on the agenda of the Council, utilizing information from available United Nations sources, including country teams, peacekeeping operations, and other United Nations personnel, which would include, inter alia, information on situations of armed conflict in which sexual violence has been widely or systematically employed against civilians; analysis of the prevalence and trends of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict; proposals for strategies to minimize the susceptibility of women and girls to such violence; benchmarks for measuring progress in preventing and addressing sexual violence; appropriate input from United Nations implementing partners in the field; information on his plans for facilitating the collection of timely, objective, accurate, and reliable information on the use of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, including through improved coordination of United Nations activities on the ground and at Headquarters; and information on actions taken by parties to armed conflict to implement their responsibilities as described in this resolution, in particular by immediately and completely ceasing all acts of sexual violence and in taking appropriate measures to protect women and girls from all forms of sexual violence;

“16. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

The most thorough report of the action I have found is here.

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