Thursday, June 26, 2008

Security Council: rape is a “weapon of war”

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution declaring rape to be a weapon of war, a development it's my honor to feature in this guest post, as part of a dialogue today with IntLawGrrl Beth Van Schaack.
The resolution was passed a week ago today, during a session chaired by Condoleezza Rice (right), U.S. Secretary of State, and attended by several other women government officials -- including Rama Yade (top left), France's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, and Rt. Hon. Baroness Patricia Scotland (below right), the United Kingdom's Attorney General.
The move comes in response to reports that thousands of women are being raped and sexually abused amid conflicts from Burma to Sudan. Last year, the Security Council rejected a similar measure after several states -- including China and Russia -- argued that rape was a lamentable by-product of war that fell short of constituting a threat to international peace and security.
Notable characteristics of last week’s Resolution 1820 include:
►Recognition of rape and other forms of sexual violence as a war crime, an acknowledgement of several important international criminal law precedents.
►Recognition of sexual violence amid armed conflict as an impediment to the restoration of “international peace and security.” This could lay the groundwork for future Security Council response to widespread rape and sexual violence under Chapter VII of the U.N Charter.
►“Zero tolerance” for sexual violence perpetrated by U.N. peacekeepers.
►Recognition of the under-representation of women in peacebuilding operations and urging of the Secretary General and Special Envoys to “facilitate the equal and full participation of women at decision-making levels.” Out of the UN’s 17 active peacekeeping operations, only one is headed by a woman: Ellen Margrethe Løj of Denmark, Special Representative of the Secretary General to the UN Mission in Liberia (left).
While much more political will and donor commitment are needed to realize the goals of Resolution 1820, it represents a step forward in the push to eradicate the endemic rape and sexual violence that accompanies modern-day conflict.

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