Tag: <span>Rape as a war weapon</span>

Reconciliation Appeals

Reconciliation in Africa: A Vital Need.

Featured Image: USAID has integrated reconciliation and trauma healing into peace building. This has helped communities moveout of the cycle of violence and revenge.Photo credit: Pact/Aernout Zevenbergen. By USAID in Africa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Francis’ Appeal to the populations of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of South Sudan for reconciliation and forgiveness stresses a vital need to overcome the divisions of the armed conflicts in the two countries.  A million people came to the Kinshasa airport to hear the Pope call for an end to the armed conflicts in the eastern Congo, basically the administrative provinces of North and South Kivu.  The area is huge, about the size of the U.S.A. east of the Mississippi River.  Originally, he had hoped to go to Goma, the major city of eastern Congo, with many refugees from the surrounding area. 

However, the security situation was such that the itinerary was modified.  However, his words reached the area.

Pope Francis in 2021. By Quirinale.it, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has a large Christian population.  The activity of Christian missionaries was part of the agreement to create the Congo Free State which was the personal property of the King of Belgium before becoming a Belgium colony.  Thus, the Pope’s influence can be real with a fairly strongly developed Catholic Church infrastructure to follow up.

However, the divisions within the country are deep and of long duration.  The divisions have both ethnic and economic roots.  The Congo’s vast mineral and timber riches have drawn in neighboring armies which have joined local insurgencies as well as local commanders of the national army to exploit the mines and to keep miners in near slavery.  The eastern area of Congo has been the scene of fighting at least since 1998 – in part as a result of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994.  In mid-1994, more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees poured into the Kivus, fleeing the advance of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Front, now become the government of Rwanda led by Paul Kagame.

Rwandan PRESIDENT KAGAME ATTENDS THE NEPAD@20 SYMPOSIUM Virtual Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda (2014). By Вени Марковски | Veni Markovski, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genocidaire.

Many of these Hutu were still armed, among them the “genocidaire” who a couple of months before had killed some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda.  They continued to kill Tutsis living in the Congo, many of whom had migrated there in the 18th century.  As the Rwandan groups created their own militias, so did different Congolese ethnic groups, often drawing on their ethnic brothers who deserted from the Congolese army.  Deserters and ethnic militias combined to rob and burn villages and to rape on a large scale.  Rape as an instrument of war has been widely practiced in eastern Congo.

Systematic rape is a crime which is covered by the mandate of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.  Rape is a violation of international humanitarian law.  Additional Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions prohibits:

“violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture…outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault, slavery.”

Image: Photo by Stewart Munro on Unsplash.

A Step Forward in the U.N.’s Efforts Against Rape as a Weapon of War.

The MONUC.

Into this disorder, in 2002, the United Nations sent peacekeepers, the MONUC, currently some 18,000 persons – the largest U.N. peacekeeping operation.  The MONUC mandate has been prolonged with a new Security Council resolution each year that the sponsors hope will be the last.  Each year, there is so little improvement in the security situation that the mandate is continued with little debate and with general indifference of world public opinion.

On paper, the U.N. mandate is clear and comprehensive – to build the political, military, institutional, social and economic structures needed to create a secure environment.  However, there is no effective Congolese administration.  The U.N. troops are not trained to deal with the cultural issues – especially land tenure and land use issues, which are the chief causes of the conflict.  U.N. peacekeepers are effective when there is peace to keep.  Today, there are an estimated 120 separate armed militias in action.

What is required today in eastern Congo is not so much more soldiers under U.N. command as reconciliation bridge builders, persons who are able to restore relations among ethnic groups of the area.  Such bridge builders can help to strengthen local efforts at conflict resolution and the restoration of confidence among peoples in conflict. It must be hoped that the Appeals of Pope Francis will provoke creative action on the part of bridge builders.

 Picture: MONUSCO Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Weak but Necessary.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Rape Appeals

U.N. Highlights Rape as a War Weapon in Ukraine.

Image Featured: Photo by Melanie Wasser,  Unsplash 

Pramila Patten, the United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on sexual violence in times of conflict reported mid-October 2022 that rape is increasingly used in the armed conflict in Ukraine as a weapon to humiliate and discourage the populations.  Therefore, there had been an earlier 27 September report to the High Commissioner for Human Rights setting out many of the same facts and calling for international action.

Patterns of systematic rape become part of International Humanitarian Law.

In the past, sexual violence had often been dismissed as acts of individual soldiers, rape being one of the spoils of war for whom rape of women was an entitlement.  However, with the 2001 trials of war crimes in former Yugoslavia by the International  Criminal Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia, the first convictions of rape as a crime against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war were handed down against Bosnian Serb soldiers.  Bosnian Serb fighters were charged with mass rape and forced prostitution involving dozens of Muslim women and girls some only 12 years old.  The case had taken five years of investigations and more than 30 witnesses for the prosecution.  The three soldiers being tried were given a sentence of 12 years imprisonment.

Since then, we have seen patterns of systematic rape become part of International Humanitarian Law, and since 2002 one of the crimes that can be prosecuted within the International Criminal Court.  (1)

Pramila Patten
Pramila Patten. Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Film Festival: Fighting Stigma Through Film in London, 23 November 2018. By Foreign and Commonwealth Office, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rape as a war weapon.

There have been reports of systematic rape in Ukraine since 2014 with the creation of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Louhansk by both Ukrainian and separatist soldiers.  However, little international attention was given to these reports.  It is only with the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on 24 February 2022 that international attention has focused on reports of rape especially in areas that were for a time under the control of the Russian military or the militias of the two People’s Republics. (2)

Unfortunately, it would seem that the armed conflict in Ukraine will drag on.  There are few signs of a willingness for a negotiated settlement.  International Humanitarian Law moves slowly.  Rape as a war weapon is used in other armed conflicts, such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Sudan, and Syria. Strong non-governmental pressure is needed to keep governmental and United Nations efforts going.

People's Republics of Donetsk and Louhansk
Image: Return of released citizens to the territory controlled by Ukraine, December 29, 2019. By President.gov.ua, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Vital Autonomy for the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk. The Way Ahead.

 

Notes:

1) For a good overview of both specific armed conflicts and the slow but steady international response see Carol Rittner and John K. Roth (Eds) “Rape: Weapon of War and Genocide” (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2012)
2) See Amnesty International “Ukraine 2021”     www. amnesty.org Secretaru General’s Report, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.   www.osce.org

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

1 2 12