Sexual assault during conflict must be prosecuted as war crime, expert says


WASHINGTON: On the night of March 25, 1971, the Pakistani military launched the now infamous “Operation Projector” in which it killed students, intellectuals and civilians in Bangladesh. Thousands of Bengali women have been raped by the Pakistani army. The idea was to brutally crush the Bengali resistance.
Sexual violence over the years, has also occupied a permanent place in a multitude of small paramilitary style conflicts. With such anecdotes and narratives, sexual violence in conflict is finally making its way through the lingering layer of shame and silence that has left victims feeling guilty and perpetrators living free with impunity.
Hollie McKay, writing in The Dallas Morning News, said that when rape is used as a weapon of war, it should be prosecuted as a war crime.
According to him, the world is starting to understand the extent of sexual assault during conflict, but there is still a long way to go to achieve justice and accountability.
The world is teeming with such examples, the most recent being that of Yazidi girls and women who have been sexually abused as part of the brutal campaign waged for years by Islamic state in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) the insurgents in Iraq and Syria from 2014.
Despite the hundreds of Yazidi women who showed up to tell their survival stories, including girls as young as 8 who were sold to fighters and transported between Iraq and Syria in dusty cattle trucks, none ISIS member has not been explicitly prosecuted or tried for sexual violence.
“Iraqi courts are overwhelmed by ISIS prosecutions and are therefore happy to prosecute only basic terrorism crimes,” said Anne Speckhard, director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. “It is not very satisfying for those who have suffered rape and genocidal killings.”
Although the wording of Article 27 of the 1949 Geneva Convention stipulates that women must be protected “against any attack on their honor, in particular against rape, forced prostitution or any form of indecent assault” , crime is not very present in international justice. efforts, McKay reported.
It was not until the late 1990s that rape was formally recognized by the courts for war crimes. It has become an inconspicuous spot on almost all conflicts from antiquity to modern battles of First World War and II, Korea, Vietnam, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Syria and beyond.
The first historic prosecution took place in 1998 at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. However, in 20 years of existence, this jurisdiction, the International Penal Court, got only one conviction for rape and sexual slavery, and that was in the case of a Congolese warlord in 2019, The Dallas Morning News reported.
It was not until 2008 that the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1820, which officially recognized rape and other forms of sexual violence as a “war crime or an act constituting genocide”.
Nevertheless, the prevalence of such wartime sexual violence has continued because perpetrators have historically not faced retaliation. Rape remains one of the most “underreported and under-prosecuted” war crimes, according to human rights activists, McKay writes.
the The United Nations and world leaders continue to speak words of condemnation, but words are not enough. Activists also point out that governments downplay or still deny past state-sanctioned crimes, exacerbating the trauma that survivors still suffer.
Impunity for rape in times of conflict must be abolished. Without it, there is little reason for the genocidal transgression to cease. And the survivors are unlikely to regain their dignity and heal from the tangle of nightmares circling around their heads, their lives forever in limbo, writes McKay.


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