The Security Council called today upon warring parties around the globe to implement concrete commitments to fight what many speakers described as the heinous, barbaric and all-too-often silent phenomenon of sexual violence during conflict.
Adopting resolution 2467 (2019) by a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation), during a wide-ranging debate on the prevention and implications of sexual violence, the Council reiterated its demand for the complete cessation of all acts of sexual violence by all parties to armed conflict.
Calling upon the latter to implement specific, time-bound commitments to combat the crime, the Council welcomed efforts by the Secretary-General, his Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and other relevant officials in seeking such commitments and implementation plans, aimed at preventing and addressing all acts and forms of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations.
The Council reiterated its deep concern that — despite its repeated condemnation of violence against women and children in situations of armed conflict, including sexual violence — the phenomenon continues to occur, often with impunity, and in some situations has become systematic and widespread, or reached appalling levels of brutality.
Encouraging Member States to adopt a survivor-cantered approach to ensure that survivors receive the care required by their specific needs without discrimination, the Council also called upon parties to conflict to include stipulations prohibiting such crimes in all ceasefire and peace agreements. It further urged States to recognize the equal rights of all affected individuals — including women, girls and children born of sexual violence — in national legislation and recognized the need to integrate prevention, response and elimination of the crime into all relevant Council resolutions, including authorizations and renewals of the mandates of peace missions.
Further by the terms of the resolution, the Council urged existing sanctions committees — where within the scope of the relevant designation criteria and consistent with the present and other relevant resolutions — to apply targeted sanctions against those who perpetrate and direct sexual violence during conflict. It reiterated its intention to consider including designation criteria pertaining to acts of rape and other forms of sexual violence when adopting or renewing targeted sanctions in situations of armed conflict.
Several experts, high-profile activists and survivors briefed the Council at the outset. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad from Iraq recalled that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) enslaved thousands of Yazidi girls and women before the eyes of the world in a genocide that continues today. The social fabric of an entire society has been torn and the hopes of entire generations wasted, she said, recalling that her repeated calls for the creation of a working group to rescue those still missing or held in captivity have fallen upon deaf ears. While Yazidi girls and women broke the barriers of silence, stigma and fear by telling their stories, not a single person has been tried for sexual enslavement crimes, she pointed out.
Denis Mukwege, another Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, contrasted today’s international landscape to that of 10 years ago, when many doubted the link between sexual violence and peace and security. Today, no political or military official can continue to overlook the fact that the use of rape and sexual violence as tools of terror is a violation of international law, he emphasized. Expressing support for all initiatives seeking to draw a red line against such barbaric actions, he pressed the United Nations and Governments to adopt sanctions against perpetrators. “Healing is complete only when justice has been served,” he stressed, welcoming the adopted resolution’s focus on children born of rape, the need for a survivor-centred approach, the imposition of sanctions, ensuring justice and accountability, and providing reparations.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict declared: “Wars are still being fought on and over the bodies of women and girls.” She added that in the 10 years of her mandate, “a crime that has often been called ‘history’s greatest silence’ has seized the consciousness of the international community and global action has escalated in an unprecedented way”. However, the pace of implementation remains slow and criminal accountability largely elusive, she said, adding that sexual violence casts a long shadow over humanity, undermining the prospect of peace and development. Calling for tailor-made responses to the unique circumstances of each situation, she stressed the urgent need to ensure comprehensive health services for survivors. “Yet, if we are ever to prevent these crimes from occurring in the first place, we must confront the unacceptable reality that it is still largely ‘cost-free’ to rape a woman, a child or a man in armed conflicts around the world,” she noted.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the decade since the establishment and mandating of the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict has seen a paradigm shift in the world’s understanding of the crime of sexual violence in conflict. While an increasing number of Governments are demonstrating their willingness to pursue justice and provide services for survivors, “sexual violence continues to fuel conflict and severely impacts the prospects for lasting peace”. Indeed, the reality on the ground remains unchanged, with sexual violence continuing to constitute a horrific feature of conflicts around the globe, he added.
Barrister Amal Clooney shared her experience providing legal counsel to women previously kidnapped, bought, sold, enslaved and raped by ISIL. She recalled that as the group’s territorial presence declined, Nadia Murad and other survivors called upon the Council to send investigators to gather evidence in Iraq, and just weeks ago the exhumation of mass graves and the identification of victims remains began. However, the trials brought against suspects do not include charges of sexual violence and do not stand as a measure of justice for Yazidis, she emphasized. Laying out several legal options — including referral to the International Criminal Court — she recalled that similar discussions about the value of justice emerged after the Second World War. “If this august body cannot prevent sexual violence in war, then it must at least punish it,” she stressed, adding: “This is your Nuremburg moment.”
Inas Miloud, Chairperson of the Tamazight Women’s Movement, said her group has been working with indigenous women affected by sexual and gender-based violence in Libya since that country’s 2011 revolution. Hundreds of testimonies outline a common pattern of physical violence, rape, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, abduction and domestic violence, all underpinned by patriarchal norms, she added. Citing the unchecked flow of weapons into Libya and decades-old discrimination against indigenous minorities, she said the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement fails to reflect such crucial issues as gender equality, sexual and gender-based violence and fear of reprisals for activism.
More than 90 delegates also took the floor, with many expressing outrage over the continued prevalence of a crime as abominable to humanity as sexual violence in conflict. While some hailed the adoption of the resolution and welcomed the concrete recommendations laid out in the Secretary-General’s most recent report (document S/2019/280), others emphasized that not enough is being done to tackle the crime’s root causes.