Sexual violence in conflict “great moral issue of our time” UN Special Representative tells Security Council

For immediate release

Date: 25 April 2014


(New York, USA) The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, presented harrowing reports of wartime rape and other forms of conflict-related sexual violence during an open debate in the Security Council today.  Sexual violence in conflict is a “great moral issue of our time” the Special Representative told the Council.

“This crime, in its utter destruction of the individual and the pervasive way in which it undermines the prospect of peace and development, casts a long shadow over our collective humanity.”

The Security Council debate marked the launch of the new Report of the Secretary General on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. The report, covering 21 countries of concern, makes a number of concrete recommendations, both to the affected states themselves and to the international community as a whole.

The report also describes a number of concerning trends, including the acute vulnerability of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the need for justice and assistance for all victims, regardless of gender. The plight of children born of rape, and the linkages between sexual violence, displacement and organized crime were also highlighted in the report.

In her statement, the Special Representative emphasized that there have also been positive developments.

“While the road ahead to eradicate sexual violence in conflict remains long and hard, there is some light on the horizon. Never before in history have we seen such a level of political will and momentum.

The Special Representative also pointed to positive efforts on the ground in conflict and post-conflict countries, such as measures undertaken by governments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Guinea to hold perpetrators accountable.

Special Representative Bangura stressed however, that most perpetrators of wartime rape are never brought to justice.

“Unfortunately, the unacceptable reality is that today it is still largely ‘cost-free’ to rape a woman, child or man in conflict. Sexual violence has been used through the ages precisely because it is such a cheap and devastating weapon.”

Thirty four armed groups from countries on the Security Council’s agenda that are credibly suspected of rape and other forms of conflict-related sexual violence are named in the annex of the report. The annex also points to an unknown number of armed elements on all sides of the Syrian conflict.  The list includes both government security forces and rebel groups.

Special Representative Bangura ended her statement with a message directly to the perpetrators: “There is no hiding place. If you commit, or command, or condone such crimes against humanity, humanity will pursue you relentlessly, and eventually you will be held to account. This is our solemn promise to the survivors.”