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UN Security Council adopts resolution condemning sexual violence in conflicts worldwide

The resolution calls for effective prosecution of perpetrators, quality medical care and reparations for victims and recognition of the special status women and girls have in conflict.

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and Iraqi human

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and Iraqi human rights activist Nadia Murad at a UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Drew Angerer

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution condemning sexual violence in conflict worldwide and urging UN member states to continue to implement national programs protecting women and girls and to adopt legal measures that punish perpetrators.

Thirteen of 15 members of the Security Council voted for the resolution, with China and Russia abstaining on a measure that was drafted by Germany and hotly debated in recent weeks. The resolution calls for effective prosecution of perpetrators, quality medical care and reparations for victims and recognition of the special status women and girls have in conflict.

The vote was unusual if only for its star power.

Amal Clooney, a prominent international human rights lawyer and the wife of the Oscar-winning actor George Clooney, gave remarks to the Council. Joining her were 2018 Nobel Peace Prize recipients Nadia Murad, a Yazidi and survivor of sexual violence by Islamic State in Iraq, and Denis Mukwege, a physician operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — once described by UN officials as the rape capital of the world.

“Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, let us remember that the crimes committed by ISIS and against women and girls are unlike anything we have witnessed in modern times,” Clooney said. “ISIS controlled territory the size of the United Kingdom and ruled over 8 million people. More than 40,000 fighters from 110 countries are estimated to have joined ISIS’ ranks in Iraq and Syria but the question of bringing them to justice has barely raised a whisper.”

Pramila Patten, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said the issue — widespread rapes and assaults against women and girls that occur during and after military campaigns the world over — has taken center stage since UN Secretary-General António Guterres created Patten’s position and office.

She spoke some 20 years after the adoption by the Security Council in 2000 of a Resolution 1325, which focuses on the problem.

“In the 10 years since the establishment of this mandate by the Security Council, a crime that has often been called history’s greatest silence, has seized the consciousness of the international community and global action has escalated in an unprecedented way,” she said. “This Council has played a critical role by recognizing that the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and terrorism constitutes a fundamental threat to international peace and security.”

Murad documented the violence against her in a book, "The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State." 

She called for justice for herself and the thousands of Yazidi women who were the militant group’s sex slaves during the siege of Mosul in 2014, when she endured three months of degradation at the hands of Islamic State fighters.

“We are demanding today that those perpetrators be brought to justice,” she said Tuesday. “They used Yazidi women as weapons of war and should be tried before a specialized court of justice in preparation to holding them accountable for crimes against women and children.”

Jonathan Cohen, acting U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the United States has a commitment to justice and accountability.

“The United States is resolute in recognizing that conflict-related sexual violence is a matter of international peace and security,” he said. “It demands collective action to promote prevention, hold perpetrators accountable, and support survivors. None of us can turn our backs on this issue.”

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