Friday, 20 June 2008

rape as a war crime

the UN has decided to speak out against war crimes against women:

Approved by all 15 members, council resolution 1820 "demands the immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians with immediate effect."

It also urged that "all parties to armed conflict immediately take appropriate measures to protect civilians, including women and girls, from all forms of sexual violence."

Chaired by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the council said "rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide."

It indirectly threatened suspected war-time rapists with prosecution before The Hague-based International Criminal Court.

i'm sorry if i'm a little underwhelmed. i'm wondering how this particular resolution is going to add anything more to article 27 of the fourth geneva convention, which in 1949 "specified rape, as a form of torture and of cruel and inhuman treatment, as a violation of human rights and a war crime". presumably that article is what they used to try those responsible for the systematic mass rapes of 20,000 bosnian women (the most conservative estimate)as an act of ethnic cleansing. it seems odd that this particular resolution didn't occur to the united nations back in 1995.

perhaps the united nations could have thought about a resolution when reports came out of the brutality of the russian army in chechnya such as "townspeople being forced to watch women being raped by soldiers, and sixty-eight men who protested being subsequently handcuffed to an armoured truck and raped too" (reported in the observer, 27 oct 2002 & quoted by mark curtis in his book web of deceit).

and i might have had a little more faith in the pronouncements of ms rice, if she had been vocal and active against her government's policy of seeking to exclude american citizens and military personnel from the jurisdiction of the international criminal court, by use of "article 98" agreements.

but i suppose better late than never. in a year when the UN are focusing on violence against women, it's a good time as any to talk tough on rape as a war crime.


Marianne said...

underwhelmed seems a perfectly reasonable response. but after my two years working on elimination of violence against women within a UN peace-keeping mission, i do see this as a significant achievement. perhaps i've been so beaten down that i'll take ridiculously tiny victories... i'll also forget (for a moment) the hypocrisy that sits behind almost all such initiatives if i can then use the outcome in some way to better protect women. but that doesn't negate at all the important points you raise. it's just that i was feeling kind of excited about this resolution.

Anna said...

I kind of see what you mean Frida - the general public of NZ seems to be having trouble telling the difference between consensual sex and rape at the moment, after all. It's kind of sad to be celebrating small victories - but I'll take small ones over none!

stargazer said...

but that's what i'm failing to understand here. can you please explain to me what the victory is? what is new that has been achieved? what war crime can now be tried that couldn't be tried before? how are women better protected?

i'm not a lawyer and certainly have no expertise in the area of international human rights law, so please tell me why this is a small victory, when all it seems like to me is just more empty noise.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was pretty confused over this too, especially as it only seems to cover civilians. (why is raping a soldier not ALSO a war crime? o_O) It seems to be rehashing old territory, but again, I haven't studied the impact of it in much depth.