Last month’s open debate on sexual violence in armed conflict at the UN Security Council saw several references to the emerging role of the ICC in addressing such crimes.
The debate centered around the latest report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on conflict related sexual violence released in March this year.
During last year’s debate on the topic, the Council adopted resolution 2106 on conflict-related sexual violence. However this year, Council members decided to focus on implementation and consolidation of efforts.
Speaking alongside the Secretary General was the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura. Rhoda Misaka, from South Sudan, also spoke on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security.
Accountability stressed, ICC invoked
The debate focused heavily on the continuing problem of impunity for sexual and gender based crimes and the need to hold perpetrators accountable and provide access to justice and redress for victims-survivors.
Throughout the meeting explicit references to the ICC were not hard to come by. Many countries expressed their support for the Court as a complementary mechanism to uphold accountability when national systems are unwilling or unable to do so.
However, the need for the international community to support capacity building for national judicial systems and security sectors was stressed by many participants.
While stressing the primary national responsibility of countries to protect citizens against sexual violence and to carry out justice, many countries also iterated their support for the inclusion of the ICC as a tool for the Security Council to act on its responsibility to ensure accountability for these sexual and gender-based crimes and stressed that any amnesties offered as part of peace deals should not include such crimes.
Participants also emphasized accountability with respect to sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by UN peacekeepers. Prince Zeid of Jordan criticized the Council for allowing such abuse to continue and go unpunished while claiming commitment to fighting sexual violence.
Many delegations took the opportunity to highlight the situation in Syria as an example of systematic use of sexual and gender-based violence, alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
The Syrian representative questioned the validity of the Secretary General’s report and of the Special Representative to the Secretary General’s approach.
The debate’s other areas of focus included:
- the role that small arms and light weapons play in perpetuating insecurity and conflict;
- the need to provide reparations to victims, including those born of rape;
- the need to ensure victims have access to sexual and reproductive health and rights;
- and the positive role that women play in peace-building and peace negotiations.
The particular vulnerability of Internally Displaced Persons and refugees and the horrendous situations in camps housing those populations.
Finally, participants raised the need for more complete data on the perpetration of sexual and gender-based crimes, while acknowledging the difficulties in data collection on such an under-reported phenomenon, where it is reported at all.
In June, the United Kingdom will hold a Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.
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