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UN Week 4/8/13

April 14, 2013

This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

John and Douglas Carey, Editors

Contents of this issue: US hails arms treaty; sexual violence in conflict.

The United States told the General Assembly on April 2nd, following adoption of the arms trade treaty: “We believe that our negotiations have resulted in a treaty that provides a clear standard, in Article 6, for when a transfer of conventional arms is absolutely prohibited. This article both reflects existing international law and, in paragraph three, would extend it by establishing a specific prohibition on the transfer of conventional arms when a state party knows that the transfer will be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, or the enumerated war and other crimes. Article 7 requires a state party to conduct a national assessment of the risk that a proposed export could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law, as well as acts of terrorism or transnational organized crime. Taken together, these articles provide a robust and complementary framework that will promote responsible transfer of decisions by states parties.”

Sexual violence in conflict.

          I come now to a dreadful subject, one on which the UN has just published a major report, A/67/792-S/2013/149. Despite its importance, the report has not seen the light of day in any news medium that I am exposed to. Therefore UN Week is now presenting some aspects of the report, including its novel emphasis on sexual violence against men and boys.

As is often the case in UN reports to which many persons have contributed, this one speaks in the voice of the Secretary-General. That gives it added status beyond what it would enjoy if a single author or even a committee were given credit. Here is how it announces its goal.

“The report presents information on parties to conflict credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for acts of rape and other forms of sexual violence.” Id. at 1. “The term ‘sexual violence’ refers to rape, sexual slavery forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization and any other form of sexual violence or comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men or children with a direct or indirect (temporal, geographical or causal) link to a conflict. * * *
          “6. The country sections of the present report highlight several emerging concerns, including the perpetration of sexual violence against men and boys, the plight of children born as a result of rape and the practice of forced marriages by armed groups. * * *

“10. Although women and girls are predominantly affected by sexual violence, men and boys too are victims of such violence. Sexual violence has been perpetrated against men and boys as a tactic or war or in the context of detention or interrogation, including in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, and the Syrian Arab Republic. The social consequences of this violence are acute. More monitoring and information regarding male victims and the types of sexual violence perpetrated against them is required to tailor prevention initiatives, sensitization campaigns, treatment protocols and services for survivors.” READ from para 11.

Details follow on Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen.

Under a heading ‘Sexual Violence in post-conflict situations,” the following countries are referred to in detail: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Liberia, Libya, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.

Later in the report, accountability and reparations are discussed. “111. National courts remain the principal venue for holding individuals accountable for crimes of sexual violence. * * * 112. The focus of international criminal justice and mixed tribunals on combating acts of sexual violence, including rape, in the context of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, represents an important complement to national efforts. * * *

“113. The trial in the International Criminal Court of Jean-Pierre Bemba, former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and leader of the Mouvement de libération du Congo, in connection with events in the Central African Republic represents a critical test case for the principle of command responsibility for sexual violence as a war crime and a crime against humanity. ** *

“114. * * * In December 2011, a hearing on sexual violence under the Khmer Rouge regime revealed that sexual violence was a daily reality for most women, that acts of sexual violence were seldom punished and implicitly endorsed by an ‘enemy policy’ promulgated by leaders at the highest levels and that survivors continue to suffer from trauma, discrimination and stigma.”

Having dealt with national and international prosecutions to penalize sexual violence, the report then turns to a newer technique, targeted sanctions. “115. The unique ability of the Security Council to impose targeted sanctions raises the stakes for perpetrators and, as such, is an important aspect of deterrence.”

The Secretary-General’s specific recommendations included the adoption by the Security Council “of targeted and graduated measures by relevant sanctions committees, and to consider  means by which such measures may also be taken in relevant contexts where no sanctions committees are in place.” This technique is a new version of criminal prosecution that is not burdened with rigorous scrutiny of evidence by the accused or its legal counsel.

Annexed to the report is “a list of parties credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape and other forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict on the Security Council agenda.” The parties are listed under headings of the Central African  Republic, the Democratic  Republic of the Congo, Mali and the Syrian Arab Republic.

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