Ban Ki Moon calls for independent inquiry into use of rape as weapon in African wars

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12-year-old girl, displaced by conflict in Darfur region of Sudan, was raped by government soldiers

7 August 2009 – Warning that rape is being used as a weapon of war with the same efficient brutality as a gun or a grenade, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the Security Council to set up an independent commission of inquiry into such abuses in the conflicts in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan.

Such a panel, supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, should recommend to the Council “the most effective mechanisms to ensure accountability for these egregious crimes,” he told the 15-member body at the start of a day-long debate on women and peace and security.

“Despite some progress over two decades, the deliberate targeting of civilians through acts of sexual violence continues on a widespread and systematic basis,” Mr. Ban declared, also citing abuses perpetrated by the rebel Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Sudan, Central African Republic, Uganda and the DRC.

“Parties to armed conflict continue to use sexual violence with efficient brutality. Like a grenade or a gun, sexual violence is part of their arsenal to pursue military, political, social and economic aims. The perpetrators generally operate with impunity.”

The session, in which 45 Member States are scheduled to speak, follows a report to the Council on the issue last month in which Mr. Ban called on States to strengthen prevention and protection measures against the crime.

Today he recalled his meetings with victims of sexual violence. “I am haunted by their testimony, and I will not relent in calling on States and non-State parties to prevent these terrible crimes,” he said, adding that such abuse hurts recovery and peacebuilding in countries such as Burundi, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where the fighting may have ended but sexual violence persists on a very serious scale.

He said the UN needed to fashion a multi-sectoral response to the scourge, address the issue from planning to implementation of its mandates, create a UN institution to advance gender equality and women’s human rights, and improve monitoring and investigation to overcome the hurdles faced in reporting on sexual violence.

“I am also in discussions with UN System partners on appointing a new senior system-wide official to address sexual violence,” he added.

“Victims of sexual violence are among the world's most vulnerable and traumatized people. For the sake of these innocent women and men, their families and their societies, we must come together and act. That will help victims and war-torn countries and set our world on a course for a better future,” he concluded.

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