Report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence (S/2018/250) [EN/AR]
1. The present report, which covers the period from January to December 2017, is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2106 (2013), in which the Council requested me to report annually on the implementation of resolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009) and 1960 (2010) and to recommend strategic actions. The reporting period was marked by the liberation of territories and the attendant release or escape of numerous women and girls formerly held by armed or terrorist groups. That development has lent urgency to efforts to alleviate the stigma associated with sexual violence, which can have life-long, and sometimes lethal, repercussions for both survivors and for children conceived through rape. It also underscores the importance of socioeconomic reintegration support aimed at restoring community cohesion in the wake of war. In the context of the mass migration crisis, sexual violence continued to serve as a driver of forced displacement and a factor inhibiting the return of uprooted communities to their places of origin. In the year under review, sexual violence was also used by belligerent parties to attack and alter the ethnic or religious identity of persecuted groups. As an integral component of strategies to secure the control of land and resources, conflict-related sexual violence has devastated the physical and economic security of displaced and rural women and women belonging to minority groups.
2. The term “conflict-related sexual violence” refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict. That link may be evident in the profile of the perpetrator, who is often affiliated with a State or non-State armed group, which includes terrorist entities, the profile of the victim, who is frequently an actual or perceived member of a political, ethnic or religious minority group or targeted on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, the climate of impunity, which is generally associated with State collapse, cross-border consequences such as displacement or trafficking, and/or violations of a ceasefire agreement. The term also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation.
3. While many settings are affected by conflict-related sexual violence, in the present report I focus on 19 countries where verifiable information exists. It should be read in conjunction with my eight previous reports on the subject, which cumulatively provide the basis for the listing of 47 parties (see annex). The majority of listed parties are non-State actors, with seven having been designated as terrorist groups on the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida sanctions list. Those national military and police forces that are listed are required to engage with my Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict to develop specific, time-bound commitments and action plans to address violations, as several have done since 2010. Cessation of violations and effective implementation of commitments are key factors in the consideration of the delisting of parties.
4. The present report is based on information verified by the United Nations, unless indicated otherwise. In that regard, the presence of women’s protection advisers, who are responsible for convening the monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements on combating conflict-related sexual violence in the field, has improved the availability and quality of information. Currently, 21 women’s protection advisers are deployed in seven mission settings. All peacekeeping missions with mandates that include the protection of civilians have established the monitoring arrangements and incorporated early warning indicators of conflict-related sexual violence into their broader protection structures. Two special political missions have also established such arrangements.
5. National authorities and civil society are working with the United Nations to prevent and address conflict-related sexual violence in the countries mentioned in the present report. Efforts include legal reforms, legal assistance programmes, community security programmes, the development of specialized services for victims and witnesses, awareness-raising campaigns and rehabilitation programmes. Support for country-level assistance on justice and the rule of law has been coordinated and scaled up through the Global Focal Point for Police, Justice and Corrections, and peacekeeping missions continue to implement their mandate of protection of civilians, prioritizing the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence.
6. Strengthening the capacity of national institutions is critical to ensuring accountability for past crimes, and for prevention and deterrence of future crimes. In that regard, the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, in accordance with its mandate under Security Council resolution 1888 (2009), continues to work closely with Governments and United Nations missions and country teams on the ground to support the investigation, prosecution of perpetrators and adjudication of such crimes under civilian and military systems, legislative reform, the protection of victims and witnesses and reparative justice. Situated in the Office of the Special Representative, the Team of Experts is composed of specialists from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Development Programme supplemented by a roster of experts with a range of specializations. To date, engagements of the Team of Experts have been conducted in the Central African Republic, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Iraq, Liberia, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and the Sudan, as well as with regional organizations such as the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the League of Arab States. During the reporting period, its support to national authorities and the United Nations in various settings have contributed to achievements of Member States, including in the successful prosecutions for rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the establishment of a specialized police unit for sexual violence in the Central African Republic; the development of strategies for investigating and prosecuting sexual violence perpetrated by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Iraq; and the formulation of an action plan with the South Sudanese Armed Forces to strengthen accountability. In Guinea, the Team of Experts continued to support the investigation of crimes of sexual violence perpetrated in Conakry in September 2009, a nationally led effort to combat impunity, with technical support from the international community. The Government has since indicted 17 high-ranking military officials, conducted over 450 hearings, which included the testimony of at least 200 victims and witnesses of sexual violence, and increased judicial cooperation with neighbouring countries, which has led to the arrest and extradition of alleged perpetrators. The Team of Experts has committed to supporting preparation of the trials, including in the areas of victim and witness protection, the design of a reparations strategy, sensitization, outreach and resource mobilization. The work of the Team of Experts demonstrates that, with political will and dedicated assistance, Governments can hold perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence accountable and deliver justice for victims.
7. The United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict network, which consists of 14 United Nations entities and is chaired by my Special Representative, aims at strengthening the prevention of and response to sexual violence through a coordinated, coherent and comprehensive approach. In 2017, through the United Nations Action multi-partner trust fund, funding was provided to support a project on children conceived through rape in Iraq, and to support the Gender-based Violence Information Management System, an inter-agency initiative that enables humanitarian actors to safely collect, store, analyse and share data. In 2017, the network continued to fund the post of senior women’s protection adviser in Iraq and successfully advocated for its inclusion in the regular budget of the mission. The network also provided financing for an adviser to support the development of a national strategy on gender-based violence, including sexual violence in conflict, in Mali. United Nations Action continued to fund a joint programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which aims at addressing the legacy of conflict-related sexual violence, and five projects in the Middle East and North Africa, which primarily support Syrian and Iraqi survivors, including those who are refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. The project in Jordan contributed to the adoption of a national action plan on women and peace and security, which provides a protective framework for refugees who are survivors of sexual violence. In 2017, the United Nations Action network conducted joint technical support missions to Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to help to improve the response to conflict-related sexual violence.
8. Recognizing the existence of acts of sexual exploitation and abuse in the United Nations, I have pledged to dramatically improve the way the Organization prevents and responds to such conduct by any United Nations personnel. In my report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (A/72/751), I provided an update on progress in implementing a new strategic approach, led by the Special Coordinator on Improving the United Nations Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, including the appointment of a victims’ rights advocate, improved transparency and information-sharing and the signing by 89 Member States of a voluntary compact committing to a policy of zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse.