I have the honor of delivering this statement on behalf of 51 members of the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect*, co-chaired this year by Denmark and the State of Qatar.
The Group would like to thank Germany for organizing today’s important Open Debate. I also would like to extend our gratitude to Nobel Peace Prize winners Dr. Denis Mukwege and Ms. Nadia Murad for their informative briefings and persistent efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and armed conflict.
As the Secretary-General noted, sexual violence in conflict is a “historically hidden crime” that requires early warning and swift responses. Sexual violence, including rape, is not just a by-product of war, but increasingly employed as a deliberate strategy by state and non-state actors to retaliate against, terrorize, intimidate, control and displace civilians. Such acts may amount to crimes against humanity, war crimes, or genocide. Further, sexual violence in conflict significantly exacerbates and prolongs situations of armed conflict, destroys the social fabric of communities and impedes peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts.
Sexual violence is a pervasive facet of many conflicts today, claiming thousands of victims every year. In South Sudan, sexual violence in conflict remains rampant, often used as collective retribution against ethnic rivals. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan reported 1,157 cases of sexual violence during 2018. And these are only the reported cases in a context of notoriously underreported incidents. Similarly, as Ms. Murad has attested, the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has systematically committed rape and sexual violence against Yazidi women and girls, which the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria has characterized as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
As it is the primary responsibility of member states to protect their populations against genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing, including those involving rape and sexual violence, the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect would like to stress the following points:
Sexual violence in conflict need not be an inevitable side effect of armed conflict, it can be prevented and stopped. While significant normative progress has been achieved in recent years, it is also clear that words on paper are not yet matched by facts on the ground. In this regard, it is imperative that the Members of the Security Council take timely and decisive action aimed at ending and preventing sexual violence in conflict, if and when they may amount to atrocity crimes.
In closing, the Group of Friends of R2P would like to recognize and pay tribute to the important work accomplished by Dr. Mukwege and Ms. Murad, including providing critical medical and psycho-social and socioeconomic reintegration support to the survivors of sexual violence in conflict and addressing impunity for these heinous crimes.
We would like to ask how we, as members of the R2P community, can more efficiently integrate gender considerations and prevention of sexual violence into our work.
*Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.