Women, Peace and Security: Sexual Violence in Conflict
Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to hold an open debate on sexual violence in conflict on 16 December. Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallström will present the Secretary-General’s report on this issue (due the first week in December).
The Secretary-General seems likely to recommend that the Council establish a mechanism for the UN to monitor and report on sexual violence in conflict in situations on the Council’s agenda. (This could be similar to the monitoring mechanism on children and armed conflict, initially focused on child soldiers and extended to sexual violence against children in resolution 1882, but the focus would be more limited, ie. specifically concentrating on situations on the Council agenda.)
For detailed analysis of the Council’s past dynamics and approach to sexual violence in conflict within the broader issues of women, peace and security please see our Cross-Cutting Report on Women, Peace and Security published in October 2010.
Key Recent Developments
The Council has adopted two resolutions to deter the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. In 2008 resolution 1820 identified sexual violence as an impediment to international peace and security when used or commissioned as a tactic of war in order to deliberately target civilian populations or as part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilian populations. In 2009 resolution 1888 established a series of mechanisms to implement resolution 1820 and requested additional information from the Secretary-General to inform the Council’s approach (some of which is expected in the Secretary-General’s report).
The mechanisms established by resolution 1888 included:
- a special representative of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict to lead and coordinate the UN’s response (Wallström was appointed in February);
- a team of experts deployable to situations of particular concern to work with host governments to strengthen rule of law; and
- the identification of women’s protection advisers among gender advisers and human rights protection units in relevant peacekeeping operations.
The General Assembly is currently negotiating funding for Wallström’s office. It is understood the General Assembly advisory committee on budget matters recommended Wallström’s office be allocated seven of the nine positions requested.
From 30 July to 2 August, 200 to 400 armed men allegedly from a Hutu rebel group, Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), and the Mai Mai tribal militia raided some 13 villages in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Walikale region and committed mass rape. Humanitarian sources reported 303 rape survivors were treated. Reports of these rapes reached the Council via the media on 22 August. The Council sought briefings from Wallström and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Assistant Secretary-General Atul Khare and a member of Wallström’s office traveled to the scene. Khare briefed the Council on 7 September, outlining the UN’s understanding of what happened and a series of practical measures to improve the UN’s ability to protect civilians from such attacks in the future and apprehend those responsible.
Wallström also eventually visited the DRC and briefed the Council on her visit on 14 October. Wallström called upon the members of the DRC Sanctions Committee to consider applying sanctions against FDLR commander “Lieutenant Colonel” Serafim. Khare had mentioned in his briefing that Serafim was present at the scene. Wallström recounted recent arrests of several FDLR and militia leaders on charges related to sexual violence, including:
- FDLR Executive Secretary Callixte Mbarushimana (arrested under an ICC warrant in France on 11 October);
- two FDLR leaders, Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni (arrested earlier in the year in Germany); and
- a commander of the Mai Mai tribal militia, “Lieutenant Colonel” Sadoke Kokunda Mayele (arrested by UN peacekeepers in the DRC on 5 October).
From 30 September to 10 October, a high-level panel convened by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to consider the adequacy of reparations available to victims of sexual violence met survivors in six towns in the DRC. The panel reported its preliminary findings in Kinshasa on 12 October, concluding the needs of victims were largely unmet.
In late October reports emerged that 100 to 600 Congolese women, men and children in a group expelled from Angola had been raped, though it was unclear by whom. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos called for a prompt investigation by both national authorities.
On 26 October the Council held a high-level meeting on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of resolution 1325 (the resolution in which the Council first recognised the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls). The Council issued a presidential statement in which it reiterated its demand that all parties in armed conflicts immediately and completely cease all forms of violence against women and girls, including acts of sexual violence.
On 22 November the Council held a debate on protection of civilians, where it issued a presidential statement that expressed deep regret at the level of civilian casualties in armed conflict, including from sexual violence.
A related issue is ensuring the Council has sufficient information on the causes and impacts of targeted sexual violence in different situations on its agenda, as well as well-researched information on the likely perpetrators.
A further issue is how to integrate this issue into the Council’s ongoing work on protection of civilians.
A technical issue is that the Council has already established a mechanism to monitor and report on sexual violence in the context of children and armed conflict. This mechanism is still at an early stage, but it underlines the inconsistency in the Council’s approach to sexual violence in conflict, in that under the 1882 mechanism the Council’s attention ceases when victims turn 18. The Secretary-General’s new recommendations would rectify that anomaly.
- set up a new, separate mechanism for the UN system to monitor and report on sexual violence against persons over 18 years in the situations on the Council’s agenda;
- adapt the monitoring and reporting mechanism established in resolution 1882 to take into account victims over the age of 18;
- broaden the scope of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict to include situations not on the Council’s agenda; or
- outline its intention to apply measures, including targeted sanctions, to isolate perpetrators of sexual violence.
A resolution would be an option if the recommendations of the Secretary-General were sufficiently detailed regarding a potential monitoring and reporting mechanism for the Council to take action. Otherwise, the Council could ask the Secretary-General for more detailed recommendations in a presidential statement and indicate possible paths to carry out other recommendations.
The US is the lead country on this issue and is likely to take the lead in promoting a robust approach by the Council, including the careful establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism that would not adversely impact the existing mechanism on children and armed conflict. Other members, such as the UK, France, Austria, Mexico and Japan, have been consistent advocates of this issue in the Council and would likely support US efforts.
Other members, including Russia and China, believe that the issue of sexual violence is adequately covered by the protection aspects of the broader topic of women, peace and security (in resolution 1325) and that singling out one crime in conflicts diverts attention from other heinous crimes, such as trafficking, targeted killings and maiming.
There seems to be little appetite in the Council to create a separate working group on sexual violence in conflict.
There is possibly some fatigue in the Council at the end of 2010, following the large number of recent thematic debates and negotiations on women, peace and security and protection of civilians. That may sway some in the Council away from a detailed outcome in December in favour of a more measured approach in 2011. Conversely, these recent debates seem to have built momentum within many of the delegations for the Council to address a number of the related issues the Secretary-General’s report is expected to highlight.
Selected Security Council Resolutions
Selected Presidential Statements
Selected Secretary-General’s Report
Selected Security Council meetings