[JURIST] UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom [profile] on Thursday presented the Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence [text, PDF] to the UN Security Council [official website; press release]. The report documents numerous conflict-related sexual violence cases [UN News Centre report] in Colombia, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Libya, Myanmar, Somalia and Sudan. Notably the report named for the first time military forces and armed groups suspected of such sexual violence—organizations like Sudan’s Lord’s Resistance Army [War Child profile] and Congo’s Federal Republican Forces. According to the report, one of the worst offenders in these regions was the national armed forces of the DRC. In Congo alone a total of 625 instances of sexual violence were reported—602 against women and 23 against men and boys in the conflict-affected regions of North Kivu, South Kivu and Orientale Province—and the DRC armed forces allegedly was responsible for almost half (261) of those cases. In the Ivory Coast there has been an increase in rape and gang rape targeting civilians during the country’s recent post-election crises [JURIST news archive]—between January and September 2011, 478 cases of rape were documented in the country, and although 13 arrests were made, no convictions have taken place to date. While presenting the report in New York Wallstrom stressed that conflict-related sexual violence is a global risk, and that the terror of unarmed women facing armed men is age-old and universal. She added that rape can be a “strategic twist” in times of conflict as a tactic of war and terror, and the report notes that such violence often later acts as an impediment to post-conflict resolutions.
War crimes and conflict-related human rights violations represent an ongoing international concern. On Wednesday an International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] pretrial chamber granted the request of Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] to expand his investigation of war crimes in the Ivory Coast [JURIST report] to incidents dating back to 2002. In April Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Ivory Coast to investigate human rights violations [JURIST report], including murder and rape, that were reportedly committed by opposing political forces last year. In March a military court in Congo sentenced 11 army officers [JURIST report] to prison for raping more than 20 women in 2010. A month earlier, the same court sentenced a DRC colonel to 20 years in prison [JURIST report] for being involved in mass rapes.