Women as Targets Rather than "Spoils of War"? ICC Rome Statute Takes Aim - by Ambassador mo

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"Boys Will Be Boys"
Conflict has been for centuries depicted as men fighting men, and women were too frequently seen as the prize or spoils of war to be done with as the victor desires, from sexual abuse to slaughter. The too happy image of victorious males marauding through villages and towns with a women slung over the shoulder like war's bounty blurred the reality. The treatment of women is not a byproduct of "boys will be boys" behavior by men. Rather, too frequently the women (and children) are the direct,the strategic targets, especially if the objective is ethnic cleansing/genocide.

International Criminal Court consultations at United Nations HQ
This week at United Nations HQ in New York, proponents of the International Criminal Court, from State Parties to NGO's, will be holding extensive consultations. The UN Security Council will also hear reports regarding more recent abuses and targeting of women that appears to exhibit a continuing disregard. These two events are not institutionally directly linked.Still, their is some promise that sexual abuse and/or gender based crimes in conflict areas may take a higher priority in being confronted, by the rule of law and the power of political/military authorities mandated to secure peace and protect civilians in armed conflict.

Bosnia to Congo: Recent History
The targeting of women and genocide have gone hand in hand, and even our shared sacred religious texts provide reference, unfortunately with some mixed messages, (but that for another time). More recent conflicts though have made it impossible for international observers and national governments to ignore that women were not only a direct target rather than byproduct of conflict but also primary objective in terrorizing or ethnically cleansing/genocide of a population. In Bosnia & Herzegovina during the conflict and genocide of 1990's, ultra-nationalist Serb groups/paramilitary employed the tactic of what became known as "enforced pregnancy", the repeated rapes of Bosniak (Muslim), and in cases also Bosnian Croat (Catholic) women. and then keeping such victims in detention and further abuse until they bore the resulting children. The rhetoric was that such women would be forced to give birth to "Serb" children. The rape of married women was undertaken with purpose of undermining family units while the abuse of young girls barely in their teens was designed to psychologically and perhaps physically deprive them of normal lives.

Similar tactics of ethnic cleansing have been witnessed in more recent conflicts in Africa, and reports of systematic abuse from the Democratic Republic of Congo (the "DRC") have reached the Security Council. (Below is analysis from the publication "Security Council Reports" regarding upcoming briefing to be delivered by Ms. Margot Wallstrom, the Secretary General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence). Further, the UN's own mandated personnel and peacekeepers tasked with the responsibility of protecting civilians have been documented with sexual abuses of males as well as females, a violation of trust as well as decency and law dating back to the conflict in Bosnia and before. The report by Jordanian Ambassador to the UN, His Royal Highness Prince Zeid Al-Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein opened a new door on transparency and hopefully accountability.

Rome Conference: Statue on International Criminal Court
Rome, the summer of 1998: some of us including Prince Zeid, focused on identifying sexual abuse/gender based crimes as a violation of international humanitarian law deserving special designation and treatment. We struggled to overcome old stereotypes and outdated agendas dressed in new frocks. Finally, against stacked odds, we managed to designate this new category of gender based crimes by reminding participants of the reality of the recent experience in Bosnia & Herzegovina as compared to theological concerns stretched to the edge of the theoretical.

It was one of my most rewarding moments as a diplomat and lawyer, and much credit goes to a small team of young international lawyers brought together by the NGO "No Peace Without Justice," (Niccolo Figa-Talamanca). Our group, mostly young women working on behalf of the Bosnia/Herzegovina delegation and other smaller states, overcame. In one grand moment in a small, steamy conference room at the UNWHO offices where the multi-month negotiations and drafting sessions were held, several states with at times conflicting agendas,(as diverse as the United States, Iran, Bahrain, Australia, Vatican and several other European and Latin American states), came together with the recent experience of Bosnia's targeted women and girls providing the sermon. We managed to deliver into the Rome statute a special designation of gender based crimes. (Will describe more of this critical turning point in future reports).

That moment has yet to translate into an eradication of sexual abuse in conflict, and it is doubtful that we can in rid ourselves of this flawed psycho-social gene. One can argue that little has changed, but it can no longer be shunned as simply "boys will be boys," or "the spoils of war." Further, the UN Security Council as well as the International Criminal Court have now a much more focused legal mechanism that can be aimed at persons, organizations and even state institutions that target women and other innocents in conflict.

See our videos on related stories at "War Crimes Justice TV" - www.warcrimesjustice.com
"International Criminal Court Update Part 1/Bill Pace Reports" - diplomaticallyincorrect.org/films/movie/international-criminal-court-william-r-pace-part-1-kampala-amendment-conference/20656
"Violence Against Women & Girls" - diplomaticallyincorrect.org/films/movie/un-violence-against-women-and-girls/22259
"DRC Rapes" - diplomaticallyincorrect.org/films/movie/un-drc-congo-rapes/21643
"Margot Wallstrom, (UN Secretary General Special Rep on Sexual Violence)" - diplomaticallyincorrect.org/films/movie/un-wallstrom/21575
"Cambodia War Crimes Tribunal" - diplomaticallyincorrect.org/films/movie/cambodia-war-crimes-tribunal-commander-duch-guilty/20841
"Child Soldiers, Drugged & Forced to Kill" - diplomaticallyincorrect.org/films/movie/child-soldiers-drugged-forced-to-kill/22572
"Dayton Accords: Good, Bad & Ugly" - diplomaticallyincorrect.org/films/movie/dayton-accordsgood-bad-ugly/22624

"Security Council Reports" at securitycouncilreport.org

"Women, Peace & Security: Sexual Abuse in Conflict - December 2010

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to hold an open debate on sexual violence in conflict on 16 December. Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallström will present the Secretary-General’s report on this issue (due the first week in December).

The Secretary-General seems likely to recommend that the Council establish a mechanism for the UN to monitor and report on sexual violence in conflict in situations on the Council’s agenda. (This could be similar to the monitoring mechanism on children and armed conflict, initially focused on child soldiers and extended to sexual violence against children in resolution 1882, but the focus would be more limited, ie. specifically concentrating on situations on the Council agenda.)

For detailed analysis of the Council’s past dynamics and approach to sexual violence in conflict within the broader issues of women, peace and security please see our Cross-Cutting Report on Women, Peace and Security published in October 2010.

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Key Recent Developments
The Council has adopted two resolutions to deter the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. In 2008 resolution 1820 identified sexual violence as an impediment to international peace and security when used or commissioned as a tactic of war in order to deliberately target civilian populations or as part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilian populations. In 2009 resolution 1888 established a series of mechanisms to implement resolution 1820 and requested additional information from the Secretary-General to inform the Council’s approach (some of which is expected in the Secretary-General’s report).

The mechanisms established by resolution 1888 included:

* a special representative of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict to lead and coordinate the UN’s response (Wallström was appointed in February);
* a team of experts deployable to situations of particular concern to work with host governments to strengthen rule of law; and
* the identification of women’s protection advisers among gender advisers and human rights protection units in relevant peacekeeping operations.

The General Assembly is currently negotiating funding for Wallström’s office. It is understood the General Assembly advisory committee on budget matters recommended Wallström’s office be allocated seven of the nine positions requested.

From 30 July to 2 August, 200 to 400 armed men allegedly from a Hutu rebel group, Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), and the Mai Mai tribal militia raided some 13 villages in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Walikale region and committed mass rape. Humanitarian sources reported 303 rape survivors were treated. Reports of these rapes reached the Council via the media on 22 August. The Council sought briefings from Wallström and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Assistant Secretary-General Atul Khare and a member of Wallström’s office traveled to the scene. Khare briefed the Council on 7 September, outlining the UN’s understanding of what happened and a series of practical measures to improve the UN’s ability to protect civilians from such attacks in the future and apprehend those responsible.

Wallström also eventually visited the DRC and briefed the Council on her visit on 14 October. Wallström called upon the members of the DRC Sanctions Committee to consider applying sanctions against FDLR commander “Lieutenant Colonel” Serafim. Khare had mentioned in his briefing that Serafim was present at the scene. Wallström recounted recent arrests of several FDLR and militia leaders on charges related to sexual violence, including:

* FDLR Executive Secretary Callixte Mbarushimana (arrested under an ICC warrant in France on 11 October);
* two FDLR leaders, Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni (arrested earlier in the year in Germany); and
* a commander of the Mai Mai tribal militia, “Lieutenant Colonel” Sadoke Kokunda Mayele (arrested by UN peacekeepers in the DRC on 5 October).

From 30 September to 10 October, a high-level panel convened by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to consider the adequacy of reparations available to victims of sexual violence met survivors in six towns in the DRC. The panel reported its preliminary findings in Kinshasa on 12 October, concluding the needs of victims were largely unmet.

In late October reports emerged that 100 to 600 Congolese women, men and children in a group expelled from Angola had been raped, though it was unclear by whom. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos called for a prompt investigation by both national authorities.

On 26 October the Council held a high-level meeting on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of resolution 1325 (the resolution in which the Council first recognised the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls). The Council issued a presidential statement in which it reiterated its demand that all parties in armed conflicts immediately and completely cease all forms of violence against women and girls, including acts of sexual violence.

On 22 November the Council held a debate on protection of civilians, where it issued a presidential statement that expressed deep regret at the level of civilian casualties in armed conflict, including from sexual violence.

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Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is whether to mandate a monitoring mechanism to track and deter the use of systematic sexual violence in conflict situations on the Council agenda.

A related issue is ensuring the Council has sufficient information on the causes and impacts of targeted sexual violence in different situations on its agenda, as well as well-researched information on the likely perpetrators.

A further issue is how to integrate this issue into the Council’s ongoing work on protection of civilians.

A technical issue is that the Council has already established a mechanism to monitor and report on sexual violence in the context of children and armed conflict. This mechanism is still at an early stage, but it underlines the inconsistency in the Council’s approach to sexual violence in conflict, in that under the 1882 mechanism the Council’s attention ceases when victims turn 18. The Secretary-General’s new recommendations would rectify that anomaly.

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The Council could:

* set up a new, separate mechanism for the UN system to monitor and report on sexual violence against persons over 18 years in the situations on the Council’s agenda;
* adapt the monitoring and reporting mechanism established in resolution 1882 to take into account victims over the age of 18;
* broaden the scope of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict to include situations not on the Council’s agenda; or
* outline its intention to apply measures, including targeted sanctions, to isolate perpetrators of sexual violence.

A resolution would be an option if the recommendations of the Secretary-General were sufficiently detailed regarding a potential monitoring and reporting mechanism for the Council to take action. Otherwise, the Council could ask the Secretary-General for more detailed recommendations in a presidential statement and indicate possible paths to carry out other recommendations.

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Council Dynamics
The US is the lead country on this issue and is likely to take the lead in promoting a robust approach by the Council, including the careful establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism that would not adversely impact the existing mechanism on children and armed conflict. Other members, such as the UK, France, Austria, Mexico and Japan, have been consistent advocates of this issue in the Council and would likely support US efforts.

Other members, including Russia and China, believe that the issue of sexual violence is adequately covered by the protection aspects of the broader topic of women, peace and security (in resolution 1325) and that singling out one crime in conflicts diverts attention from other heinous crimes, such as trafficking, targeted killings and maiming.

There seems to be little appetite in the Council to create a separate working group on sexual violence in conflict.

There is possibly some fatigue in the Council at the end of 2010, following the large number of recent thematic debates and negotiations on women, peace and security and protection of civilians. That may sway some in the Council away from a detailed outcome in December in favour of a more measured approach in 2011. Conversely, these recent debates seem to have built momentum within many of the delegations for the Council to address a number of the related issues the Secretary-General’s report is expected to highlight.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

* S/RES/1888 (30 September 2009) established mechanisms for the UN to address sexual violence in conflict.
* S/RES/1882 (4 August 2009) expanded the criteria for the Secretary-General’s “list of shame” in his reports on children and armed conflict beyond the recruitment of child soldiers to include rape and other sexual violence against children.
* S/RES/1820 (19 June 2008) confirmed the Council’s readiness to address more systematically the use of sexual violence in conflicts on its agenda.
* S/RES/1325 (31 October 2000) acknowledged conflict has a disproportionate impact on women and encouraged their increased participation and protection.

Selected Presidential Statements

* S/PRST/2010/25 (22 November 2010) was on protection of civilians.
* S/PRST/2010/22 (26 October 2010) condemned all acts that violate international law committed against women and girls in situations of armed conflict and post-conflict situations.
* S/PRST/2010/17 (17 September 2010) urged the DRC government to prosecute the perpetrators of the mass rapes that occurred in eastern DRC in late July and August.

Selected Secretary-General’s Report

* S/2009/362 (15 July 2009) was the first Secretary-General’s report issued in response to resolution 1820.

Selected Security Council meetings

* S/PV.6411 (26 October 2010) was a high-level debate held on the tenth anniversary of resolution 1325.
* S/PV.6400 (14 October 2010) was a briefing by Wallström on her September visit to the DRC.
* S/PV.6378 (7 September 2010) was a briefing by Khare on his visit to the DRC, following the mass rapes in the Walikale area of Eastern DRC.

About the author


"Voice of the Global Citizen"- Diplomatically Incorrect (diplomaticallyincorrect.org) provide film and written reports on issues reflecting diplomatic discourse and the global citizen. Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey (@MuhamedSacirbey) is former Foreign Minister Ambassador of Bosnia & Herzegovina at the United Nations. "Mo" is also signatory of the Rome Conference/Treaty establishing the International…

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