UN passes watered-down resolution on conflict sexual violence

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Pramila Patten (R), special representative of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on sexual violence in conflict, speaks to journalists during a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York, April 18, 2019. Pramila Patten has expressed the hope that the Security Council will set up a formal mechanism to tighten accountability and monitor compliance. Xinhua/Li Muzi

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Nobel Peace Prize laureates Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege called Tuesday for justice for victims of sexual violence in conflict zones, as the UN Security Council approved a watered-down resolution largely stripped of substance by the United States and Russia.

The vote on the German-drafted resolution was held after intense last minute negotiations and additional changes in wording. Thirteen countries voted in favor while Russia and China abstained.

Both those countries said they opposed sexual violence in conflicts, but denounced “lax interpretations” in the text and a “manipulated” struggle to create new UN structures and “override” mandates already approved.

France criticised the United States for threatening to use its veto over a reference in the text to reproductive rights, seen by Washington as eouraging abortion.

Speaking before the vote, Murad and Mukwege decried the international community’s failure to act.

“Not a single person has been charged for sexual slavery,” said Murad, speaking at the United Nations about massacres of her Yazidi community by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Mukwege, a Congolese doctor who like Murad was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, asked: “What is the international community waiting for to give justice for the victims?”

He also called for the establishment of national and international courts to try the perpetrators of sexual violence in conflicts.

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who represents Murad and other Yazidi victims, denounced the weak international response.

She accused the United States and Russia of opposing a judicial system to hold the perpetrators of these crimes to account.

The German text initially sought to establish a formal working group, set up a mechanism to help bring to justice those responsible and develop victims’ protection by giving formal recognition to their sexual and reproductive rights.

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