6515th Meeting* (AM)
Special Representative Margot Wallström Says ‘We Must Remember Women’, Even in Emergency, When Connection between Gender, No-Fly Zones Not Obvious
Civilian protection initiatives, such as in Libya, would not be comprehensive unless they systematically included “efforts to end sexual violence before it has begun”, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict told the Security Council today.
“Even in the ‘tyranny of the emergency’, before hard evidence emerges, and though it may not be obvious what gender has to do with ‘arms embargoes’ or ‘no-fly zones’, we must remember women,” Margot Wallström said in a briefing that covered the activities of her Office in the past few months, including visits to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and India, to discuss peacekeepers contribution to the efforts to end sexual violence in conflict.
“From the way sexual violence spans the history of war, it should be automatically and systematically included in protection measures,” she stressed, urging the total implementation of Council resolution 1960 (2010), adopted last December, which calls for such provisions and established monitoring, analysis and reporting mechanisms on conflict-related sexual violence in situations on the Council’s agenda.
Unfortunately, resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011) on the protection of civilians in Libya, she pointed out, made no mention of the risk of sexual violence. Sexual violence had subsequently emerged. Although the reports of rape remained unconfirmed and even brutally silenced, she acknowledged, “the name of Eman al-Obeidi is known to all”, and reports from transit camps by medical and media workers suggest her case was not an isolated incident.
She was optimistic, however, that resolution 1960 (2010) would shift the terms of the debate from reacting to sexual violence to preventing it. Indeed, when resolution 1975 (2011) had adopted in March, imposing targeted sanctions in response to surging violence in Côte d’Ivoire, sexual violence was duly mentioned. Shocking reports of such violence had duly emerged and should be thoroughly investigated and taken into account when the Council considered the mandate of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in the coming weeks.
She urged the Council, in addition, to use its influence to ensure that any ceasefire agreement reached in relation to Libya or Côte d’Ivoire would also entail the cessation of sexual violence as a tactic of war. Commissions of inquiry must include dedicated expertise on the issue.
Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said that almost daily, cases of sexual violence against vulnerable communities continued to be reported. On 31 December 2010 and 1 January 2011, 47 women had been raped in villages in the Masisi territory in the east. The perpetrators were alleged to be soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) — ex-rebels of the National Congress for the Defence of the People — participating in a joint operation with United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO).
There were signs of hope in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, however, she said. The Government had ensured a swift and open investigation into rapes that occurred in the Fizi territory in December 2010, leading to the convictions in military court of 11 officers of FARDC with sentences ranging between 10 and 20 years. In February, Callixte Mbarushimana, affiliated with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), had been transferred from France to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Describing her third visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in February, she said the political leadership seemed to have a new awareness of ensuring rigorous investigation and prosecution of perpetrators. She stressed that it was essential, however, that all perpetrators were consistently and relentlessly pursued. “This will raise the cost of committing, commanding or condoning sexual violence and thereby serve as a deterrent to others.”
In February, she had also visited areas on the Democratic Republic of the Congo-Angola border to look into reports of sexual violence against Congolese women and girls in the context of ongoing expulsions from Angola. Local administrators and United Nations agencies had recorded 185 such rapes this past January. Of the nearly 70 of the women she met, one woman had described being abducted from a market and repeatedly raped over days before being expelled from Angolan territory. Another had rope burns on her arms, explaining she had been gang raped and tied to a tree. Many had lost contact with their children.
She had visited Angola in mid-March to take up the issue with authorities and to investigate serious reports regarding sexual violence in the context of illegal diamond mining, as well as expulsions. The visit had resulted in a joint communiqué of the Government of Angola and the United Nations, outlining a proactive approach to raise awareness and enforce zero tolerance of sexual violence.
In that context, she said, it was essential that the previously established Angola-Democratic Republic of the Congo Mixed Commission be invigorated as a formal framework under which cross-border concerns related to illegal migration were addressed, operating at national and local levels and focusing on the vulnerability of women and girls. She added that she had raised the issue of cross-border and regional cooperation also with the African Union on 28 March. In that regard, she suggested that the United Nations Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council consider the inclusion of sexual violence as an agenda item in further meetings.
In general, she said, her Office was looking at the issue of sexual violence with a wide range of partners and from all angles, including from the ground up. Describing a workshop in India that had discussed practical challenges facing peacekeepers on the frontlines, she commented that, for those peacekeepers, sexual violence mandates were operational, not just aspirational, and they must be given the resources and tools they needed to succeed.
Her Office, she said, was also developing a number of tools to accelerate the implementation of resolution 1960 (2010). They included the establishment of monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements, as well as a matrix of early-warning signs and building an accountability regime with real-world impact in the fight against impunity. She anticipated that guidance to the field on the implementation of resolution 1960 (2010) would be disseminated by the end of May. She also planned to brief the Democratic Republic of the Congo Sanctions Committee around that time.
In addition, she said, the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law was due to be deployed to Liberia later this month to support Criminal Court E, which had been specifically established to hear cases of sexual violence. The Team would then visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo to reinforce investigators and prosecutors through prosecution support cells in North and South Kivu in the east, and to mentor women magistrates who had been trained to handle cases involving sexual violence. It would deploy in May to South Sudan, to contribute to the development of new legal frameworks.
The meeting opened at 11:15 a.m. and closed at 11:30 a.m.
- The 6514th Meeting was closed.
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