"Violence against women: Global costs and consequences": Stephen J. Rapp, Ambassador-at-Large, Office of War Crimes Issues

Statement Prepared For the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing: "Violence Against Women: Global Costs and Consequences"

Chairman Kerry, Ranking Member Lugar, and Distinguished Members of the Committee:

I am honored to appear before you this afternoon. As you know, this is the first time I am testifying before a Congressional committee as Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, and I am particularly gratified to do so on a subject that is of central importance to this Administration - the need for effective action to combat violence against women and girls on a global level.

As Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, I am responsible for formulating U.S. policy responses to atrocities committed in areas of war and civil conflict throughout the world. One of my top priorities is ensuring that when rape and other forms of violence are committed against women and girls in conflict-related situations, those who are responsible for perpetrating these heinous acts are held accountable.

By ensuring justice for these crimes, we believe we can have a broader impact on countries torn apart by conflict by re-affirming core values of what is "right" and what is "wrong" in a context where these values have broken down. Prosecutions are also important for victims, recognizing their suffering and publicly holding the perpetrators accountable as criminals. While trials alone cannot end widespread violence, they can play an important part in re-establishing the rule of law in an environment of insecurity and impunity. As part of a comprehensive strategy, prosecuting those who commit acts of violence against women and girls in conflict-related situations can help restore the stability that is necessary for individuals, families, communities, and nations to develop and prosper.

My own work on these issues builds upon more than eight years of experience as an international prosecutor pursuing justice in cases of mass atrocities. Prior to my service as Ambassador-at-Large, I served from 2001 through 2006 at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) leading prosecution teams in the trials of individuals who were alleged to have been responsible for genocide in Rwanda. These trials brought forth testimony from survivors of one of the greatest crimes of the 20th Century, the murder of an estimated 800,000 human beings in only 100 days in 1994. As the evidence developed, it became clear that these murders were accompanied by premeditated massive sexual violence against women and girls. As the pre-genocide propaganda had denigrated Tutsi women as a means to marginalize the ethnic group, the rape of Tutsi women became a means to destroy the Tutsi population.