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UN: sexual violence emerges as common war weapon in Libya, other nations

UN officials expressed concern on Friday that the heightened rape cases in many war-torn nations indicate that rape is being used as a war weapon to terrorize citizens and cause them to flee because of fear. Recent concerns follow International Criminal Court (ICC) claims that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] ordered mass rapes [AHN report] against his rebel opposition. Additionally, the ICC claims that they posses evidence that Gaddafi supplied his troops with contraceptives and Viagra to promote rape and help execute these orders. The Libyan government denies use of rape as a weapon [AP report], but the investigation of these alleged crimes will determine whether the ICC will charge Gaddafi for war crimes. The UN's concern also rises over the staggering numbers of women raped [Guardian report] in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] where sexual violence is popularly known to be used as a weapon of war. In response to the sexual violence occurring in many conflict nations, UN officials are in the process of creating a blacklist of nations using rape as a weapon in hopes to subject them to sanctions.

Punishment has been sought for several leaders of war-torn nations that have used sexual violence in war. Rape became a major focus for charging Gaddafi with crimes against humanity when victim Emen Al Obeidi became internationally known when she entered the Rixos Hotel on March 26 and told the international press corps that she had been stopped at a checkpoint by Gaddafi's forces and beaten and gang-raped for 2 days. Last week the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [official website] publicly condemned her extradition back to Libya [JURIST report] because of fear for her protection. In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] requested an investigation [JURIST report] of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara for crimes including murder and rape, committed by opposing political forces during recent conflicts. In March, a military court in the DRC sentenced 11 army officers to prison [JURIST report] for raping more than 20 women last year. UN officials viewed this arrest as a strong sign that justice for these types of crimes is possible.

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