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UK ‘must do more’ to prevent sexual violence in combat, says Select Committee

27th May 2016

Nadine Osman

The House of Lords Select Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict has called for the Government to ‘do more’ to prevent rape and other sexual crimes in at least 19 conflict zones around the world.

The Committee was appointed in June last year “to consider the UK’s policy and practice of preventing sexual violence in conflict.”

The Committee concluded that sexual violence in wartime was “as prevalent, if not more prevalent, as it has ever been” and records showed it had increased since a global movement to eradicate it was launched by the actress Angelina Jolie and then UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, four years ago.

The report Sexual Violence in Conflict: A War Crime which was published on April 12, said 45 groups in 19 warzones worldwide were “credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape or other forms of sexual violence,” according to the United Nations.

It added: “For far too long sexual violence has been regarded as just one of those things that occurs when there is conflict. It is not; it is a war crime, which must not, under any circumstances, be overlooked or condoned. Like genocide, slavery, torture and piracy, it must be eradicated.”

In 2012 Jolie and Hague jointly launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), a global campaign led by the UK to prevent sexual violence in wartime.

The Committee also recommended the UK Government avoid the focus of the PSVI solely on the Middle East or combating religious extremism.

It also called on the UK to increase in the voluntary contributions to the International Criminal Court to help prosecute crimes of conflict-related sexual violence.

The report also urged for a resistance to any peace settlement in Syria that proposes amnesties for perpetrators of sexual violence; a tribunal to ensure accountability for peacekeepers who commit sexual exploitation and abuse.

The Committee also pushed for the ‘naming and shaming’ of states who fail to investigate or carry out appropriate disciplinary procedures against their peacekeeping troops accused of these crimes.

The report appealed for the UK Government to establish a global conference on preventing sexual violence in conflict, to be hosted by a different state every four years.

Chair of the Committee, Baroness Emma Nicholson said the PSVI had made an important contribution.

She said: “However, if that good start is not to be squandered, it is time for a clear strategic plan on how to take forward the battle against sexual violence in conflict. We need a five-year strategy with the PSVI’s work appropriately resourced and embedded across government.”

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