Baghdad/Erbil, 7 March 2017 – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SRSG-SVC), Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura, has concluded a 7-day visit to Iraq, encouraged by the commitment of Iraqi authorities to address the immediate and long-term consequences of conflict-related sexual violence, giving recognition and support to the victims and shining the spotlight of international scrutiny on those who commit, command or condone such egregious violations.
“During my previous visit in April 2015, I was horrified by the atrocities that Daesh has committed against Iraqi women and girls, particularly the genocide against the Yezidi community and targeting of other minorities and other components of Iraqi society such as the Turkmen-Shia, Sunni and Shia Muslims, Muslim Kurds and Christians. This includes the use of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism: a recruitment incentive for fighters by promising them access to wives and sex slaves; and, to raise funds through the sale, trade and trafficking of women and girls. But now there is far greater awareness about these crimes, and the authorities have demonstrated stronger commitment and political determination to deal with the problem,” said the Special Representative. She also emphasized that it is imperative to succeed in Iraq because our experience will be instructive for other situations where we are also confronted by extremist groups who use sexual violence for strategic purposes.
SRSG-SVC Bangura’s visit follows the signature in September 2016 of a Joint Communiqué between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq on the prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence. The primary purpose of the visit was to consult with all stakeholders in the development of an implementation plan for the commitments expressed in the Communique. This includes better protection for communities and services for survivors, as well as accountability for perpetrators. A number of positive steps have been taken by authorities, including the appointment of two high-level focal points at the federal level as well as in the Kurdistan Regional Government, to work together in the implementation phase and serve as points of contact with the United Nations and international community.
During her visit, the Special Representative met with senior political leaders in Baghdad, Erbil and Duhok, including the Prime Minister of Iraq and the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, religious leaders, civil society and service providers. Iraqi authorities agreed that they have a collective responsibility to address the immediate and long term consequences of conflict-related sexual violence. Religious and traditional leaders with whom the Special Representative met throughout the visit acknowledged their critical role to speak out about sexual violence and to embrace survivors and ensure their reintegration into communities. The Special Representative also stressed the importance of ensuring that children born of rape grow up in dignity and have official legal status so as not to be perpetually marginalized and as such potential targets for future radicalization and recruitment. This is one of a range of complex legislative reform considerations that should be addressed in the implementation of the Joint Communique.
“There can be no viable national reconciliation or durable peace in Iraq in the absence of accountability. That is why my message to those who have committed these heinous crimes is that whoever and wherever you are, the Iraqi authorities and the international community will pursue you relentlessly, until justice is finally served,” concluded SRSG-SVC Bangura.
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