Dyan Mazurana cited in the House of Lords Select Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict Report
The House of Lords Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict published Sexual Violence in Conflict: A War Crime on April 12, 2016. The document calls on the British government to set out ambitious policy goals for reducing conflict-related sexual violence to ensure the international momentum created by the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) is not lost. The report references research conducted in Uganda by Feinstein’s Dyan Mazurana under the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) program.
In the SLRC joint submission with the Overseas Development Institute to the inquiry, Dyan was cited in several places. Her research documenting that victims of sexual war crimes continue to experience stigma in the post conflict, which results in additional risks and vulnerabilities was cited: “[I]t is crucial to understand that stigma, especially against sexual violence households, can play a central role in making them [victims] ‘fair game’ for more crime and harm.” She provided several possible explanations for this: victims lacked status and so no one would defend them or come to their aid; their land was vulnerable to theft because local leaders and courts would not support them or enforce rulings; and children and women were targeted because they did not have the social connections and resources to defend them.
Additionally, Dyan’s research discussing the role of traditional and religious leaders in supporting victims of sexual war crimes to be accepted back into their communities and treated with dignity and respect, and the challenges facing victims that had been physically or mentally injured in receiving care and rehabilitation were also cited.
The Committee’s recommendations include:
- “For too long sexual violence in conflict has gone unacknowledged and unpunished. Only recently has this begun to change, but there remains much to be done before we can mitigate its effects and look to its eradication. Unless the UK and others act, sexual violence in conflict will only increase. The Government must redouble its efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict. Only then will we begin to address this war crime and answer the hopes of the survivors we met and of all those damaged by these horrendous crimes.”
- The UN recently reported evidence of conflict-related sexual violence occurring in 19 countries. The Government must avoid the temptation to narrow the focus of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) solely on the Middle East or combating religious extremism. The PSVI must have a global mandate and work to change behavior and attitudes to sexual violence anywhere communities are at risk in conflict.
- Perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict should know they will not evade prosecution. The UK should increase its voluntary contributions to the work of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to help it investigate and prosecute crimes of conflict-related sexual violence.
- The report considers the atrocities committed by multiple aggressors in Iraq and Syria. The Committee accepts that it is for the courts to determine responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, as access to international jurisdictions such as the ICC is currently blocked, the report recommends that the Government should now state, that in its view, there is prima facie evidence that crimes such as sexual violence, torture and genocide have been committed, and that those responsible must be brought to justice.
- The UK should resist any peace settlement in Syria that proposes amnesties for perpetrators of sexual violence during the conflict. The Government should also work to ensure any peace process in Syria involves the meaningful participation of women and develop a strategy to support victims of sexual violence, which can be implemented quickly when the current conflict ends.
- Peacekeepers sent to protect the vulnerable have, on occasions, committed sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), very often without redress. A new tribunal is therefore required to ensure accountability for peacekeepers who commit SEA. The UK Government must ensure the incoming UN Secretary-General gives a high priority to leading the campaign against sexual violence in conflict in all its forms.
- The UK Government should push 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. Peacekeepers should receive mandatory gender training prior to deployment and gender advisors with child protection knowledge should be present in all peacekeeping missions.
- The UK should work with other countries to establish a regular global conference on preventing sexual violence in conflict, to be hosted by a different state every four years.
- The Government should ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the ‘Istanbul Convention’) at the earliest opportunity.