Special Representative Decries ‘Slave Trade Revival’ as Delegations Deplore Impunity of Extremist Groups, Stigma Attached to Victims
Sexual violence was increasingly evolving from a tactic of war to one of terrorism, speakers said today, as the Security Council held an open debate on the use of sexual violence in conflict situations.
In a wide-ranging discussion on “responding to human trafficking in situations of conflict-related sexual violence”, under the women and peace and security agenda, participants highlighted the growing use by terrorist and extremist organizations of sexual violence to control and intimidate communities, recruit and maintain fighters and force people from their homes.
Sexual violence was not merely incidental, but integral to the ideology and strategic objectives of extremist groups, said Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, in her briefing. The bodies of women and girls were generating millions of dollars in revenue for extremist groups, she noted. That was not just objectification, but commodification, she emphasized, declaring: “It is the revival of the slave trade in our own life and times.”
She said the Secretary-General’s most recent report on conflict-related sexual violence (document S/2016/361) outlined in harrowing detail how the international community was being confronted by new and previously unforeseen threats. Of the 48 parties listed in the annex to the report, 37 were non-State armed actors, yet the instruments available to the United Nations system were primarily geared towards Member States, which presented political and operational challenges. If extremist groups were beyond the reach of judicial deterrence, greater focus must be placed on divesting them of resources and degrading their capacity to communicate, travel, trade, and do harm, she stressed.
Also briefing, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, cited recent reports indicating that the criminal practice was a regular consequence of crisis and conflict, arising from broken public institutions, violations of human rights and growing vulnerability. Abductions of women and girls who were subsequently forced to marry and/or serve as sex slaves by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Boko Haram and their affiliates and were victims of a strategy to generate revenue as well as to recruit, reward and retain fighters, she said.
To counter exploitative trafficking, it must be actively tracked, she said, adding that labour exploitation deserved the same level of attention as sexual exploitation. Millions of people forced to flee armed conflict in their own countries faced an increasingly expensive and hazardous journey, she noted, pointing out that many were vulnerable to physical violence, sexual assault, extortion and trafficking after having sold all their possessions to pay for their travel.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described sexual violence as a “deliberate strategy used to shred the fabric of society”, citing the abduction of more than 200 girls from Chibok, Nigeria, more than two years ago as one of the most horrific examples of the use of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism. He recalled that the deployment of women protection advisers to peacekeeping and political missions had strengthened the monitoring, analysis and reporting of conflict-related sexual violence as well as engagement with parties to conflict, which were vital steps towards accountability. “Today, we and our partners are supporting thousands of survivors we were not reaching a decade ago with practical measures, ranging from reporting hotlines to community-based care,” he said, emphasizing: “These policies not only help survivors; they enable societies to begin their own recovery.”
Nevertheless, survivors of violence faced immense obstacles in gaining access to life-saving services, said Lisa Davis of the Non-Governmental Organizations Working Group on Women, Peace and Security. There was a need to support women and girls as leaders, reduce vulnerability to trafficking, provide access to sexual and reproductive health care in crisis settings and end impunity, she emphasized.
Throughout the day-long debate, speakers stressed the need to challenge the harmful stigma of survivors and those born of rape, who far too often were ostracized from their families and rejected by their communities.
Malaysia’s representative said that the rescue, recovery and reintegration of women and men survivors must be a top priority, noting that survivors often suffered twice over, first from the heinous acts themselves, and then from the subsequent stigma associated with being a victim.
The representative of the United States noted the particular challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex peoples, as well as men and boys, who not only faced a heightened risk of harassment and abuse, but also had to counter strong social stigma that could result in the under-reporting of abuses.
Lithuania’s representative said that in order to tackle conflict-related sexual violence, the international community must grow out of the “this is a man’s world” perspective, adding that even the best tools would not work if women remained bystanders during peace negotiations, excluded from peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction efforts.
Senegal’s representative said it was critically important to empower women in the context of peace agreements, and to deploy women protection advisers in international peace operations, pointing to his country’s strong engagement with women’s groups. Accountability for crimes was another important element of a comprehensive approach to sexual abuse, he added.
Other speakers voiced concern about recent allegations of sexual violence by those operating within peacekeeping missions, with the United Kingdom’s representative stressing that no one wearing a United Nations blue helmet should commit, or be associated with, sexual violence, exploitation or abuse. Anyone committing such crimes must face justice, he said, emphasizing: “Accountability cannot be selective.”
Meanwhile, the Russian Federation’s representative warned the Security Council about the risk of duplicating the work of other United Nations entities in taking up the issue of sexual violence. The Council must focus only on situations of armed conflict, he said, emphasizing the need to avoid “hazy ideas” that encouraged broad interpretation of international concepts, and terminology that overstepped the international consensus.
Also speaking today were representatives of Spain, Egypt, China, Japan, Uruguay, Ukraine, Venezuela, Angola, New Zealand, France, Sweden (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Georgia, Australia, Colombia, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Portugal, India, Thailand, Israel, Belgium, South Africa, Canada, Netherlands, Brazil, Morocco, Argentina, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Sudan, Switzerland, Turkey, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and the Deputy Head of the European Union delegation.
Taking the floor for a second time were representatives of Turkey and Syria.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 4:25 p.m.
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said no region in the world was free from the threat of sexual violence that affected women, girls, boys and men. Widely recognized as a deliberate strategy used to shred the fabric of society, control and intimidate communities, and force people from their homes, sexual violence was rightly seen as a threat to international peace and security, a serious violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, and a major impediment to post-conflict reconciliation and economic development, he noted. The Council had played a significant role in addressing it, in particular through several landmark resolutions that confirmed sexual violence as a war crime, a crime against humanity and a constituent act of genocide. The designation of 19 June as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict was a further sign of heightened engagement and commitment.
He said that for his own part, he had launched the UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and created the post of Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The deployment of women protection advisers to peacekeeping and political missions had strengthened the monitoring, analysis and reporting of conflict-related sexual violence and engagement with parties to conflict, which were vital steps towards accountability. “Today, we and our partners are supporting thousands of survivors we were not reaching a decade ago with practical measures, ranging from reporting hotlines to community-based care,” he said, continuing: “These policies not only help survivors; they enable societies to begin their own recovery.”
Nevertheless, challenges remained, he cautioned. One extremely disturbing aspect was the use of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism, whereby extremist groups used sexual violence as a means to attract and retain fighters and to generate revenue. It was estimated that the Yazidi community had given Da’esh up to $45 million in ransom payments in 2014 alone, he said, noting that abducted women, men, girls and boys suffered the most terrible trauma through brutal physical and sexual assault, child and forced marriage and sexual slavery on a massive scale. The abduction of more than 200 girls from Chibok in Nigeria more than two years ago was one of the most horrific examples of the use of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism. Women and girls with children may need special medical and psycho-social support, he said, emphasizing that it must be extended to the children themselves, who could suffer complete rejection. The shame and social stigma faced by those women and children should be redirected towards the brutal perpetrators of sexual violence.
ZAINAB HAWA BANGURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said the report on conflict-related sexual violence before the Council (document S/2016/361) outlined in harrowing detail how the international community was being confronted by new and previously unforeseen threats. Of the 48 parties listed in the report, 37 were non-State armed actors, yet the instruments available to the United Nations system were primarily geared towards Member States, which presented political and operational challenges. Sexual violence was not only being used as a tactic of war, but also as a tactic of terrorism, she pointed out, adding that, without exception, the first sign of rising violent extremism was the restriction of women’s rights. “Extremists know that to populate a territory and control a population, you must first control the bodies of women,” she emphasized.
Sexual violence was not merely incidental, but integral to the ideology and strategic objectives of extremist groups, and the only crime that continued to stigmatize the victim rather than the perpetrator, she continued. Social and economic reintegration was imperative for victims and must become a more integral part of programmatic response and post-conflict development frameworks. Through the actions of extremist groups, the bodies of women and girls were generating millions of dollars in revenue. That was not just objectification, but commodification. “It is the revival of the slave trade in our own life and times,” she stressed. If extremist groups were beyond the reach of judicial deterrence, greater focus must be placed on divesting them of resources and degrading their capacity to communicate, travel, trade, and do harm.
She went on to underline that children born as a result of wartime rape, many of whom were undocumented and Stateless, often lived in shame among the shadows. Greater attention was now also being paid to the prevalence of sexual violence against men and boys, although male survivors were still a “blind spot” in terms of both monitoring and response capability. National ownership, leadership and responsibility required focused engagement in affected countries, she said, calling on the Security Council to consider a new resolution that would provide the tools required for a comprehensive and multidimensional response that would take the rapidly shifting international peace and security landscape into account. At such a crucial juncture, the global community could not afford to be complacent or lose to focus, she warned.
MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, said trafficking was underreported. Defining the crime as an umbrella activity aimed at exploiting and abusing people who found themselves in a position of personal or social vulnerability, she cited recent reports that showed trafficking in persons was a regular consequence of crisis and conflict, due to broken public institutions, violations of human rights and growing vulnerability.
The millions of people forced to flee armed conflict in their countries faced a journey that was increasingly expensive and hazardous, she said. Migrants who had sold all their possessions to pay for their travel were highly vulnerable to physical violence, sexual assault, extortion and trafficking. While not all people fleeing conflict were victims of trafficking in persons from a legal point of view, trafficking for purposes of exploitation could befall them at any time. Abductions of women and girls who were subsequently forced to marry and/or serve as sex slaves by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Boko Haram and their affiliates were victims of a strategy to generate revenue as well as to recruit, reward and retain fighters, she said.
To counter exploitative trafficking, the crime must be actively tracked, she emphasized, adding that labour exploitation deserved the same level of attention as sexual exploitation. State contracting agencies should exercise due diligence when employing workers, including migrant workers, and ensure that private employers respected migrants’ rights. The United Nations system should similarly ensure decent working conditions in the context of peacekeeping operations, she said, calling for the incorporation of anti-trafficking measures into all conflict-zone humanitarian interventions.
She went on to state procedures should be established in reception centres for migrants and other locations, in order to assess grounds for international protection while detecting indications of trafficking and risks for trafficking and exploitation. When such indications were found, solutions tailored to every individual case must be sought, including the provision of assistance, residence permits, job opportunities and compensation for victims of crimes. The protection of children was paramount, she said, stressing that they must never be detained on immigration grounds. A lasting solution must be identified on a case-by-case basis in the best interests of the child.
LISA DAVIS, Non-Governmental Organization Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, described sexual violence and other gender-based crimes as a constant threat for many local women’s organizations and activists working on the front lines of conflict. Survivors of violence faced immense obstacles in gaining access to life-saving services, and women were excluded from peace processes as impunity for crimes remained the norm. At the same time, Member States were closing their borders to those fleeing violence, she noted, emphasizing that they must fulfil their obligation and take action on the commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit. There was need to support women and girls as leaders, take measures to reduce vulnerability to trafficking, provide access to sexual and reproductive health care in crisis settings and end impunity.
In addition, she continued, the Security Council and Member States should expand political and financial support for efforts to ensure accountability, including through referrals to the International Criminal Court and by ensuring that those with arrest warrants against them faced trial in The Hague. The Council must dramatically improve its daily implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, better link protection efforts with women’s participation and rights, and call on mission staff to hold regular consultations with local women’s civil society organizations as well as women and girls in displacement settings. On preventative action, she underlined the urgent need to curb the flow of guns and other weapons, and to address the continuum of violence across societies afflicted by violent conflict.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States) noted that despite the availability of many tools for countering conflict-related sexual violence, improving accountability and justice, and documenting violations, the international community must do a better job of using those at its disposal. Significant challenges remained in terms of addressing sexual violence, particularly with respect to holding non-State armed groups, their partners and associates responsible for sexual crimes. With the steady growth in the use of sexual violence by extremist groups in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia and elsewhere, the Security Council’s 1267 Committee was a vital mechanism for punishing perpetrators, and its sanctions regime must be put to full use, she emphasized. More must also be done to protect displaced women and girls at increased risk of violence and trafficking, and greater efforts must be devoted to teaching people how to actually “see” trafficking victims. She noted the particular challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, as well as men and boys, who not only faced a heightened risk of harassment and abuse, but must also confront strong social stigma that could result in the under-reporting of abuses.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), noting that the 10-year anniversary of resolution 1820 (2008) was fast approaching, said that since its adoption, the prevalence of sexual violence in armed conflict had in fact increased in a very disturbing fashion. It was clear that the nature of sexual violence had changed significantly, given the activities and abuses perpetrated by non-State actors. The international community must do more to integrate its response to trafficking in persons with existing mechanisms for judicial and law-enforcement cooperation, on both the international and regional levels. The Council had in its hands a set of important tools, including sanctions committees, that could play an integral role in responding to sexual abuses, he said, calling for more advisers on the protection of women to be placed in missions around the world. The tragedy of sexual violence had generated very chilling personal accounts by victims, many of which had been heard in the Council. It was clear that sexual violence was a tactic of terrorism, he said, questioning why those who suffered sexual violence at the hands of terrorists and extremists were not afforded the usual international protection and recognition as other victims of terrorism.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said that, while all forms of violence in conflict and in the context of peacekeeping situations must be eliminated, United Nations reports on the issue should stay within their mandates, emphasizing that they should cover only regions suffering armed conflict. Issues that could fragment the focus on sexual violence in situations of armed conflict should be avoided. The plight of women affected by occupation and terrorism should be a focus, and the rationalization of rape under religious pretexts must be countered.
WU HAITAO (China) strongly condemned all forms of conflict-related sexual violence, including human trafficking, calling for greater efforts to end conflicts through the peaceful settlement of disputes, and for the empowerment of women in that context. The struggle against violent extremism must also be scaled up through the fulfilment of commitments and the application of equal standards. The sovereignty of all affected countries must be respected and assistance provided to counter terrorism and trafficking in women and girls. Cooperation and coordination between origin, transit and destination countries was needed to counter trafficking in particular, he said, adding that United Nations entities should step up efforts for the protection of vulnerable women and girls in a range of areas.
HIROSHI MINAMI (Japan) emphasized that reforming national military, police and judiciary sectors was vital to enforcing capacity to prosecute and punish perpetrators. Expressing strong support for the critical work carried out by the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law, he said Japan continued to provide financial assistance. Citing the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children as the most important and universal normative frameworks, he also emphasized the need to acknowledge the key role played by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). He noted that, of the 48 criminal parties named in the Secretary-General’s report, the majority comprised non-State actors, emphasizing that it was crucial to ensure that they were in compliance with international norms.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said that sexual violence should not be understood as a cultural condition or characteristic of any particular country, but rather as unacceptable insubordination. The growing and alarming trend was being carried out by terrorist and extremist groups. Reiterating his country’s firm condemnation of trafficking in persons and rigorous rejection of the practice by which women and girls were traded for sexual purposes, he also condemned the use of medical personnel by Da’esh to perform procedures that harmed women and girls by accelerating their physical maturity, and hence their sale. The international community had a duty and moral obligation to put an end to such deplorable practices, he emphasized.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said the reality on the ground continued to be characterized by an alarming number of mass rapes, systematic and widespread sexual violence and impunity. Sexual violence against the most vulnerable groups, including children, refugees, displaced persons and minorities, remained at a strikingly high level, while conflict-related sexual violence had a devastating impact on societies already traumatized by war and on lives, families and communities. Particularly disturbing was the link between sexual violence and trafficking in persons, especially women and girls, he said, noting that all too often, the stigma and shame associated with sexual violence remained with the victim rather than the perpetrator. The international community must continue to speak out about that dynamic in order to shift the stigma firmly onto the shoulders of perpetrators, he said, adding that there was a need for justice and security systems that would respond to and help prevent sexual violence, while also combating impunity.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal), noting that sexual violence in conflict and human trafficking were of increasing international concern, said a comprehensive strategy was needed that would incorporate prevention and protection. It was critically important to reduce women’s vulnerability, empower women in the context of peace agreements and deploy women protection advisers in international missions. The engagement of women’s groups was also important, as demonstrated by Senegal’s experience, he said, adding that accountability for crimes was another important element. The sexual exploitation perpetrated by terrorist groups must be countered through implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions and by actions to stem extremist ideology, he said.
EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said there was a need for constant fortification of international cooperation to end terrorist activities that threatened women and girls and to counter infrastructure that exploited migrants. There was also a need to step up action against human trafficking, he said, noting the UNODC’s work in that regard. However, the Security Council must focus only on situations of armed conflict on its agenda in order to avoid duplicating the work of other United Nations entities, he said, emphasizing the need to avoid “hazy ideas” that encouraged broad interpretation of international concepts, and terminology that overstepped the international consensus.
HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela) said war, migration and extremism on the part of non-State armed groups all fed the increase in sexual violence and exploitation during conflict. While fully respecting the sovereignty of countries affected by conflict, the international community must strengthen their capacity to protect women and girls and to provide social services. Venezuela condemned all sexual abuse committed by foreign forces, police operations and participants in United Nations peacekeeping operations, he said, stressing that the zero-tolerance policy must be enforced. Regarding sexual violence and trafficking by extremist groups, he called on the international community to abide by international law by not providing arms to such groups and by harmonizing counter-terrorism efforts with those aimed at ending exploitation in situations of armed conflict.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) recalled that although widespread sexual violence and other violations against women and girls had been documented in 2015, it had not resulted in the appropriate responses from the relevant organs of the Security Council. Da’esh had implemented a system of punishment and reward based on sexual abuse as part of its attempt to consolidate power, he said, adding that sexual enslavement had become a central feature in the recruitment of young foreign fighters to join the ranks of terrorist organizations. The international community’s stance included a range of legally-binding decisions, including Security Council resolutions, strategies and plans of actions. Nevertheless, there had been an escalation of conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated mainly, but not exclusively, by extremist and terrorist organizations. The strengthening of national institutions was essential for accountability and stemming impunity, he said, adding that his country valued the work of the United Nations Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict in providing assistance to Governments in the areas of criminal investigation and prosecution, legislative reform, protection of witnesses and repatriation for survivors, among others. Angola supported proposals to increase the number of women protection advisers in the field to monitor, analyse and report on allegations of sexual violence, he said.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said every effort must be made to bring order to the chaos within which terrorist groups thrived, which allowed them to operate with impunity with no regard for legitimate authority or human rights. The global community must ensure that military and security forces could prevent and respond to sexual violence, and that they were trained and equipped to do so. No one wearing a United Nations blue helmet should commit, or be associated with, sexual violence, exploitation or abuse, he said, emphasizing that anyone who committed such crimes must face justice. “Accountability cannot be selective”, he added. Furthermore, the international community must challenge the harmful stigma surrounding survivors and those born of rape, who far too often were ostracized from their families and rejected by their communities. Together, leaders and citizens must challenge any group that accepted, condoned or justified sexual violence, he said.
RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) highlighted the alarming and pervasive links between human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence, calling for the expansion of existing counter-terrorism strategies and a review of instruments in place to stem the financing of terrorist organizations. Regional bodies had an important role to play in addressing terrorist activities and conflict-related sexual violence, particularly where such activities crossed borders. The rescue, recovery and reintegration of female and male survivors must be a top priority, as they often suffered twice over – from the heinous acts themselves and then from the subsequent stigma associated with being a victim, he said.
PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand) said that incidents of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation by terrorist and violent extremist groups were not isolated, but represented a pattern and a policy. In order to address the drivers of that trend, the international community must redouble its efforts to address conditions that left civilians vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Furthermore, it must counter narratives that attempted to legitimize and justify such practices. Domestically, national prosecution frameworks and processes were critical, he said, noting that New Zealand had tightened its criminal legislation to ensure that its citizens and residents could be charged for offences relating to human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. At the international level, the Security Council had a role to play, including through its ISIL/Al-Qaida sanctions regime, he noted.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, saying that the root causes of sexual abuse in conflict situations must be addressed more strongly given the severe consequences. It was based on unequal treatment by persons who authorized the commodification of the bodies of women and girls. To remedy the situation, women’s empowerment must be reinforced in the areas of education and health and services adapted to the needs of women in conflict areas, including, notably, the option of abortion following rape, he said, emphasizing that it was an essential right of every woman to be able to make such decisions for herself. It was the responsibility of each Member State to take all measures necessary to allow women autonomy and decision-making power in relation to politics, the economy and their own bodies. Such power could not be nuanced by such factors as culture, he stressed. In addition, sexual violence must be treated as integral to conflict, participants in human trafficking must be identified through the activities of sanctions committees, and sexual crimes must be considered as breaches of peace agreements. In combatting terrorism, greater attention must also be paid to sexual crimes, he said, adding that zero tolerance of abuse within United Nations operations was critical. France had already implemented a broad range of measures in that regard, and the international community must maintain concerted priority attention on sexual exploitation.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), speaking also for the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway), said that since refugees and other migrants often became easy prey for human traffickers, their protection was essential. Asylum seekers in the Nordic countries were supported in various ways while their applications were considered, he said, adding that it was not only an issue of human rights and dignity, but also a way to fight the exploitation of vulnerable people. In the context of a comprehensive response, preventing exploitation required greater attention, and a shift in focus from women as victims to women as agents of change was needed for that purpose. That change of mind-set called for a more holistic and coherent institutional approach, alongside actions against trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence at all levels. Enhanced and more dynamic partnerships were needed with all stakeholders, including traditional and religious leaders.
HARALD BRAUN (Germany) said the United Nations sanctions regime could be an effective instrument in countering sexual violence, and emphasized the need to strengthen the links between counter-terrorism efforts and the women, peace and security agenda. In that regard, Germany encouraged the Council to ensure the active participation of women in peace processes and in the prevention of conflicts, he said. Calling attention to the leading role played by civil society organizations in responding to conflict-related sexual violence, he said they deserved the full support of Member States, pointing out that they could, in fact, contribute a critical, independent perspective to Security Council deliberations.
KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), aligning herself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union delegation, expressed concern over sexual abuse and the spread of “modern day slavery”. Calling upon other Member States to play a leading role in the fight against conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking, she noted her country’s devotion to the cause through its participation in international mechanisms. It was essential to implement international tools, particularly the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Gender-sensitive strategies for reducing vulnerability to traffickers and protecting women harmed by extremist groups were also important, she said, emphasizing the need also to ensure accountability for sexual violence and human trafficking. In addition to States exercising their primary responsibility to bring perpetrators of sexual crimes to justice, Hungary supported making them liable to United Nations and bilateral sanctions, she said, adding that trafficking should be a basis for listing in sanctions regimes.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) noted that today’s debate linked the emerging problem of human trafficking with Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, and 1820 (2008) on sexual violence in conflict. Expressing regret over ISIL’s use of social media to buy or sell sex slaves, and the use of sexual violence as a deliberate form of persecution to displace populations, he emphasized the need to take a holistic approach and to strengthen implementation of relevant instruments. Among other things, it was critical to provide tailored training for United Nations peacekeepers, he emphasized. For its part, Italy had hosted the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units, which provided courses on the promotion and protection of human rights, international humanitarian law, as well as sexual and gender-based violence, he said.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said impunity for sexual violence as a tool of war was not an option, and commended the International Criminal Court Prosecutor for prioritizing sexual and gender-based crimes. Human trafficking was not only a serious crime under international law, but also one of the most lucrative organized crime models, and there was much potential in monitoring the financial flows it generated. With tens of millions of people living in conditions qualifying as modern slavery, including sexual enslavement, widespread impunity for that crime must be tackled, although investigations and prosecutions could be complex due to issues of jurisdiction, he said. The International Criminal Court illustrated the global nature of its work by playing a catalytic role in prosecuting such crimes, since enslavement constituted a crime against humanity and sexual slavery, a war crime.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation, said the grim truth was that some individuals and groups chose to treat women and girls as commodities to be owned, traded, gifted and trafficked. Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming gender and understanding the essential role of women in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, he said women and girls from minority groups were at particular risk. A survivor-centred approach to sexual and gender-based violence was required in humanitarian aid policies and practices. On strengthening the justice response, he said that a collective effort to domestically implement the existing legal architecture to combat trafficking must be renewed, adding that deterring terrorism financing must remain a key priority. While commending the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor for having accorded priority to investigating sexual violence in conflict areas, he emphasized that the primary responsibility for bringing perpetrators to justice resided with States. The European Commission had published a study on the gender dimension of human trafficking, which concluded that it was a particularly gendered, severe and sustained form of violence against women and called for a gender-specific responses.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union, emphasized the benefits of enhancing women’s leadership and participation in decisions on conflict resolution and prevention. Illustrating its commitment, Georgia had adopted the National Action Plan on Women and Peace and Security for 2012-2015 and had become one of the first countries with a separate policy document on the issue. On gender-specific violence, he said the humanitarian situation in the “occupied territories of Georgia” represented black holes in which no international monitoring mechanisms were allowed to operate. Women in those territories suffered grave violations of their fundamental freedoms and rights, including the freedom of movement, and the right to education and other civil, economic and cultural rights, he said.
GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said it was distressing that, in the twenty-first century, human trafficking and slavery remained among the gravest dangers facing women and girls in conflict zones around the world. While welcoming the gender-equality focus of the United Nations Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism, she urged the Security Council and Member States to implement it and counter the use of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism. Among other things, it was crucial to improve the Council’s early-warning and prevention capacity in relation to conflict-related sexual violence in its monitoring of conflict situations. Emphasizing that ending violence against women was a priority of her Government, she noted that it was also part of Australia’s foreign policy and aid programme. The Government had launched its International Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery, under which Australia was working with partners in the Asia-Pacific region to strengthen justice responses to human trafficking and slavery. Its approach focused on prevention and deterrence, detection and investigation, prosecution and compliance, and victim support and protection, she said.
MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) said that tackling terrorism, violent extremism and sexual violence required a redoubling of existing efforts and focusing on prevention as well as a greater commitment by all Member States. She condemned the use of sexual violence as a tool of war, and emphasized the need to support civil society organizations at the local level since they provided appropriate care for victims. Among other things, she highlighted the key role played by women in peace processes, which included reflecting the concerns and opinions of victims.
SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) noted that most of the parties listed in the annex to the Secretary-General’s report were non-State actors. Da’esh continued to use human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation in order to maintain the status quo. However, such actions created socioeconomic marginalization and a vicious cycle of conflict, she said. Denial and impunity were two obstacles in the fight against sexual violence in conflict, she said, stressing the need to bring those responsible to justice.
KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) said the escalation of human trafficking for sexual purposes had reached unprecedented proportions, requiring cross-national interventions. States had the primary responsibility for enacting legislation in response to human trafficking, he said, calling for the harmonization and updating of national criminal codes and legislative responses around the world. Kazakhstan supported the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, he said, adding that all peacekeeping missions needed more fully trained women protection advisers as a fundamental element of their mandates. Sexual violence affected every aspect of a survivor’s life, requiring increased access to health care, psycho-social support, legal assistance and socioeconomic reintegration. Often, the entire community needed healing, he added.
MINNA-LIINA LIND (Estonia) said that in order to effectively tackle conflict-related sexual violence and the growing trend of trafficking in persons, the international community must promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. It was also important to raise awareness and oppose the prevalence of stereotypical attitudes, social norms and practices that supported discrimination and violence against women. For its part, Estonia had adopted its second National Action Plan for the years 2015-2019 in order to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), she said. Expressing serious concern over the significant increase in allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeepers, she said the international community must work together to address it.
DAVID DONOGHUE (Ireland), while acknowledging the existing instruments to tackle the use of sexual violence as a tool of war, said “norms are little use without action; we now need to focus on action.” The cases of human trafficking proliferated in the absence of the rule of law and the buying and selling of human beings could not be treated as any other crime. If an individual State could not do so, the international community must pursue justice through all available means. He then went on to note that in September 2016, Member States would participate in the High-Level meeting of the General Assembly on large movements of refugees and migrants. It would offer all Members an opportunity to declare their response to the scourge of trafficking.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said in order to tackle conflict related sexual violence, the international community must grow out of the “this is a man’s world” perspective. Even the best tools would not work if women continued to be bystanders of peace negotiations, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction, she emphasized. While appreciating the work done by the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, she stated her regret that most conflict-affected countries lacked adequate national capacity and expertise to prevent, investigate and prosecute such phenomena and called upon the Council to make better use of the sanctions tool to seek accountability for such actions.
JAMAL JAMA AL MUSHARAKH (United Arab Emirates) stressed the importance of strategies to combat extremism online and in social media, platforms used by extremist groups to promote trafficking and all forms of sexual violence against women and girls. The “Sawab Center”, a joint initiative of the United Arab Emirates and the United States to combat extremist messages over social media, presented moderate regional voices to amplify an inclusive and constructive narrative, as well as campaigns to expose the crimes committed by terrorist organizations against women. The responsibility for promoting gender equality and empowering women lay with both the international community and national authorities, which required strengthening regional and international cooperation, particular in exchanging experiences on services provided to survivors.
CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal), associating herself with the European Union, said recent peacekeeping review processes had recognized the disproportionate impact of such crimes on women and girls. The majority of victims never saw justice for what they had endured nor received the necessary assistance. The International Criminal Court continued to play a fundamental deterrent role complementary to the roles of tribunals. Portugal was one the first European countries to adopt the Blue Heart Campaign against trafficking and had implemented its third national action plan to prevent and combat trafficking covering the period until 2017.
SYED AKBARUDDIN (India) said tackling the complex challenges posed by terrorist and trafficking networks and mass migration demanded closely coordinated and collaborative efforts among nations, which had not yet adequately occurred. The issue of women, peace and security, in particular, must be seen in the wider societal context involving development issues that were dealt with outside the Council. Committed to zero tolerance of sexual abuse in United Nations peacekeeping operations, his country was providing training on the issue, as well as specific training for women military officers, and, in addition, had just unveiled a comprehensive draft legislation aimed at preventing trafficking of persons and the protection and rehabilitation of trafficked persons.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand) stressed that States held the primary responsibility to protect their citizens from human trafficking and should enhance their operational capacity to detect, investigate and disrupt trafficking and migrant smuggling. The Council should strengthen its targeted sanctions on individuals and entities involved in conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking. The presence of female peacekeepers helped create a safer environment for women and girls, and could also represent a trusted channel for reporting and information sharing. Thailand had made consistent efforts to increase numbers of female peacekeepers and train them to cope with conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking.
DAVID YITSHAK ROET (Israel) said that cruelty and the denial of basic humanity was a daily reality for women and girls living under the “barbaric” rule of Da’esh, but that such horrors were not limited to Da’esh controlled territory. Criminal elements had taken advantage of refugees in the current crisis to engage in trafficking of women and girls for commercial sex and sexual slavery. Moreover, Israel had proudly sponsored the 2014 resolution on child, early and forced marriage to help put an end to that practice.
BÉNÉDICTE FRANKINET (Belgium), aligning with the European Union, said her country was organizing events on accountability for gender-related crimes. The link between sexual violence, trafficking and conflict must be well understood. She shared concern over the impact of conflict on trafficking in children, as well as the marginalization of children that had been trafficked. The sanctions committees should have access to information on perpetrators of sexual exploitation, she said, stating that her country would continue to keep the issue at the forefront.
MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa) welcomed the building of the African Union’s capacity for training of gender advisers and for the training of women mediators for conflict situations. The situation of women in post-conflict situations must also receive due attention, as should the treatment of survivors of sexual abuse. He stated his support for building the capacity of civilian and military justice systems in order to safeguard against impunity and to ensure equal rights for women.
MICHAEL BONSER (Canada), noting his country’s varied forms of support for women’s empowerment and protection, said that trafficking in persons should be subject to the full weight of national and international law. His country took very seriously its obligations under the relevant Protocol and called for all countries to do the same. Similarly, he called on all States to do their part in implementing the zero tolerance policy for abuse by United Nations personnel. Canada invited all States to contribute to a review of cooperation policy and how it could better empower and protect women and girls.
PAUL ALEX MENKVELD (Netherlands), underscoring that women and girls became commodities in the supply and demand of the political economy of war, stated that they could not be protected without their empowerment and inclusion in the decision-making process. The intertwined relation between women’s protection and participation in issues of peace and security must be acknowledged by the international community. Systematic cooperation with civil society and local communities in prevention and response to human trafficking was needed. As well, local justice systems should be strengthened, he said, pointing to the Iraqi women’s organizations that trained local courts and other authorities on dealing with such crimes.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) underscored linkage between human trafficking and conflict was a particularly serious concern with the ongoing refugee crisis. In March, the International Criminal Court had concluded its first trial on the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, with war crimes perpetrated in the Central African Republic. However, the most successful way to avert such crimes would be to intensify diplomatic efforts to prevent conflict, using a gender-sensitive approach to peacebuilding with women recognized as actors, not just as victims. Brazil was currently drafting its first National Action Plan on women, peace and security, with policies to protect women and girls as a key component.
ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco) said that resolution 1325 (2000) was historic because it unanimously condemned sexual violence and underscored the need for women to participate in processes and reconstruction. Despite progress achieved, recurrence and persistence of sexual violence remained alarming. Women and children were systematically exploited and paid the highest price of conflict. Reports showed an unprecedented scale and exacerbation of rape, sexual slavery, and forced marriage. Terrorist groups were using those acts as a form of persecution or to force populations to move. Political will and firm measures were needed to bring them to justice.
MATEO ESTREME (Argentina), welcoming the increased mobilization of the international community to fight all forms of violence in conflict and post-conflict situations, said related war crimes and crimes against humanity must be punished through sanctions and referrals to international tribunals when necessary. Abuse in the course of peacekeeping was a grave issue, he said, stating his support for the zero tolerance approach along with maximum prevention and support for victims.
CLAUDE BOUAH-KAMON (Côte d’Ivoire) pointed out that his country had experienced the scourge of sexual violence during its civil conflicts. The Government was currently bolstering its legislation on protection of rights and response to gender-based violence, including a plan of action that included strengthening the institutional capacity of the Côte d’Ivoire armed forces to prevent it. Also being adhered to was the zero tolerance policy for abuse by peacekeeping contingents. Given the progress realized thus far in the fight against sexual violence and the return of peace and stability in his country, he requested delisting Côte d’Ivoire’s armed forces from the next report of the Secretary-General on the subject.
Mr. HAIDAR (Nigeria), commending efforts to provide early-warning indicators of sexual violence, condemned in the strongest terms the abduction, trafficking and maltreatment of women and girls by extremist groups. He urged the international community to step up its fight against violent extremism, pointing out that Together with its neighbours Chad, Cameroon and Niger, Nigeria was winning the war against Boko Haram and rescuing those victims. He stressed his confidence that the group would be crushed and its members would be held accountable for the war crimes and crimes against humanity that they had committed. Furthermore, Nigeria was taking steps under a multi-dimensional approach that encompassed peace, security and development, with a major focus on de-radicalization.
OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan) said that the Secretariat, which was meant to work on behalf of all States, had failed to live up to that expectation. Thus, its reports were meaningless. The report being debated today had been presented to Member States only 24 hours before the Council took it up. The report, claiming to cover the period from January through December 2015, contained renewed accusations against the Sudanese armed forces of committing collective rape in October 2014, while claiming the rape actually began in October 2015. The way the information had been presented would lead one to believe that the rape began and never ended. Meanwhile, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) had denied that the Sudanese armed forces perpetrated any such crimes. The fact that some had called for a new investigation into those events showed that there was an intention to condemn the Government of Sudan based on narrow interests. He questioned why the report did not take up the accusations against some United Nations-related individuals that had perpetrated acts of sexual violence, despite the zero tolerance policy. His Government was particularly concerned with women’s issues, as exhibited by a number of strategies and national plans it had put in place, as well as the specific unit it had created to combat violence against women, particularly those living in displacement camps.
OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said she was deeply concerned by accounts of exploitation and trafficking in the context of large movements of refugees and migrants. Peacekeeping forces, border police, immigration officials and humanitarian actors should all work within a gender-sensitive approach in fighting trafficking. Through increased dialogue and cooperation, ways must be found to adjust restrictions on migration in order to ensure that women and girls from conflict zones were not subjected to trafficking. It was also critical to ensure the participation of women in the development of strategies to fight trafficking, terrorism and other ills. Additionally, it was important to engage with non-State armed groups so as to improve their compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. Switzerland had stepped up its efforts to prevent gender-specific violence in armed conflicts by involving men, and was advocating for a holistic approach to treating survivors. Impunity for crimes must be ended, and the zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation abuse by peacekeepers vehemently pursued, she emphasized.
GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey) said that his country promoted the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) as well as similar initiatives in forums such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In particular, he recognized the importance of the fight against human trafficking, for which Turkey had become a destination country. In order to reverse the situation, numerous administrative and legal measures had been introduced and Turkey was a party to relevant international legal instruments, having made the necessary alignment of domestic legislation. Support to victims was essential; his country was providing support services and facilitated voluntary return to home countries. However, wide-scale international cooperation was required to prevent trafficking. The empowerment and well-being of women was supported in Turkey’s assistance programmes in countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia. Turkey also exerted every effort to provide security to the millions of Syrian women and girls who had fled their country’s conflict.
GATA MAVITA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that the conflicts in his country, particularly in the eastern provinces, had seen the terrible consequences of the use of rape as a tactic of war. Liberation of areas previously dominated by armed groups and armed forces of other countries had led to a drop in sexual violence, however. A justice capacity in the armed forces of his country had been built as well, with numerous cases of gender abuses tried. Legislation had been drafted at various levels to counter sexual violence, along with training courses on the issue. A fund had been set up to meet the financial needs of victims. Assistance had been received for some of those activities. He welcomed further work with the international community to fight the scourge.
AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) recalled that his Government had hosted the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and had kept all doors wide open for her during her visit, including providing her with an opportunity to meet prisoners that had committed acts that broke Syrian laws. Despite an improvement in terms of recognizing the plight of Syrian women that suffered from sexual violence, the report did not look into the plight of women and girls living in camps in neighbouring countries. He expressed deep concern about the rape of women and phenomenon of sexual slavery within those camps, as well as the trafficking in the human organs of those individuals; all done in front of the eyes of the entire world. Media reports indicated that dozens of children had been raped or forced into terrorist groups while living in displacement camps in Turkey. His Government had made many appeals to the Security Council to learn of the status of women abducted in Syria. He regretted that the report had disregarded the plight of women in the occupied Syrian Golan as well as Palestinian women living in the occupied territories.
The representative of Turkey, taking the floor for a second time, recalled the portion of the Secretary-General’s report that detailed instances of women, men and children that had been subjected to grave abuses at the hands of Syrian Government personnel.
The representative of Syria, also taking the floor a second time, noted that the human rights violations he had referenced previously regarding women and children in Turkish refugee camps were included in documents issued by Turkish media.