Below is the statement by Under-Secretary-General Zainab Hawa Bangura to the side event on “Inside Syria” held at the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in London on 4 February 2016.

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the United Kingdom, Kuwait, Germany, and Norway for co-hosting this timely conference, together with the United Nations, and for recognizing that conflict-related sexual violence is a human rights, justice, and humanitarian concern that is central to resolving the conflict in Syria, and the related cross-border refugee crisis.

As you know, sexual violence has been systematically used by all parties throughout the conflict in Syria, as a tactic of war, terrorism, and torture, against women, men, girls and boys, including minorities on the basis of their religion, ethnicity and actual or perceived sexual orientation.  Women and girls, particularly, have been vulnerable in the context of house-to-house searches, at checkpoints, in detention facilities, and at border crossings.  I hope that if and when we get into a concrete political dialogue on solving the crisis in Syria, we will ensure accountability for gross human rights violation committed against people of Syria, especially conflict-related sexual violence.  During my last visit to Syria in April 2015 and to the neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees, I heard from many men and women that a very weak link is the lack of adequate services including medical and psychosocial support to victims of sexual violence.  Therefore I hope that in the course of our discussions today, partners will be able to commit resources towards addressing this issue.

In that regard, I would like to commend Member States, including neighbouring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, as well as many in Europe and beyond, for the support they are providing to Syrian refugees. My appeal today to countries present here is:

1)                To ensure that in the course of the asylum process, survivors of sexual violence get prioritised and provided with adequate services including medical and psychosocial support.

2)              To ensure that these victims and survivors are kept together with their families to alleviate their trauma and ensure their quick integration.

3)              To ensure that unaccompanied children seeking refuge are well documented and protected, so that they do not fall prey to sex traffickers and other criminal gangs.

4)              And finally, it is crucial that while granting safe haven to refugees, asylum States also provide avenues for justice, to hold the perpetrators of crimes such as sexual violence accountable.

All of these are necessary elements in the fight for a sustainable peace in Syria. My Office stands ready to engage with all of you in this regard. Justice for the victims of sexual violence in Syria may be delayed, but – ultimately – it must not be denied.