Today marks the anniversary of one of the most infamous acts of violence against women and children within the past decade. Last year, the extremist Islamic group, Boko Haram, attacked the village of Chibok and abducted over two hundred school girls. Despite the popularity of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, the girls remain in captivity, suffering daily brutalities at the hands of their captors. It has become clear that the perpetrators of the kidnapping have specifically targeted Christian women and girls in an act of genocide.
Today, the Global Justice Center has submitted an Op-Ed to the Huffington Post about the Boko Haram abductions and posted a letter and brief to Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, of the ICC. It is imperative that the Nigerian school girls are not be abandoned by the international community. To put in perspective the efforts necessary for ending impunity and rescuing these girls, first consider the action taken to assist these women, and then compare with that which was taken after the downing of the Malaysia aircraft.
After the downing of the plane, multiple countries committed substantial resources and funds to the cause, even after the confirmed deaths of the passengers. This in no way lessens the tragedy of the downed plane, but the girls abducted by Boko Haram remain alive, suffering in captivity. What’s more is that the failure to act in response to the Boko Haram attack has led to a documented increase of abductions, as the initial attempt was so successful. Nigeria has failed to respond adequately to the situation and so responsibility falls to the international community and entities such as the United Nations and the ICC.
The Boko Haram attacks and abductions follow a long history of violence against women as a form of genocide, such as the atrocities of Rwanda and Armenia. It is thought that the abductees are being subjected to forced marriage, pregnancy, and conversion, in order to stamp out Christian beliefs. Rape is a highly effective, systematic method of genocide and therefore it must be appropriately addressed. GJC advocates the Boko Haram crimes be prosecuted, not only to bring justice for the survivors in Nigeria, but also as an example to other groups, such as ISIS, who also employ rape and abduction as a method of genocide.
Finally, Janet Benshoof of GJC asserts, “We live in a world where government agents can intercept electronic communications, and drones can find and target virtually anyone, anywhere, any time. Surely we have the means to find over two hundred girls in a forest. Unquestionably, we have the moral and legal obligation to try.”
Akila Radhakrishnan of GJC spoke at the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference, speaking about her work at GJC and the global relevance of sexual violence. She particularly focuses on GJC’s Burma project and the correlation between international law and women’s work on the ground.
“Marital rape is only considered marital rape if your wife is under the age of 13. So these are the provisions that still exist right, so when you talk about Burmese women being able to go to a court and assert their rights, this is the law that they have to assert their rights under. So if you’re 14, you don’t have a right to allege rape by your husband. And they’re working on finally reforming these laws.”
Click here to watch the full video.
Fighting against use of rape as a weapon of war is extremely difficult even when there are clear evidences proving the crimes. The task becomes more difficult when evidence is hidden and the investigation on behalf of the UN is rejected.
In Sudan a joint African Union and United Nations peacekeeping mission knows as UNAMID was twice denied permission from Sudanese authorities to investigate rape. “The Sudanese military is deliberately making it hard for its peacekeepers to investigate the claims.” After Radio Dabanga reported a collective rape of “more than 200 women and girls“, the UNAMID had no access needed for a proper investigation of the situation. The authorities threaten the local population to avoid publicity of rape crimes. “None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit on the day of that media report,” says the official UNAMID report.
However, the leaked internal report shows the investigators concerns that the Sudanese military was preventing witnesses from coming forward. This only proves the failure of Sudanese authorities to treat the conduct of war as a war crime and protect women and girls from becoming rape victims. Sudan has even asked the UN to close its human rights office in Khartoum.
While Sudanese authorities refuse to follow international law in regard to rape, we see ISIS releasing a list of rules on treating females slaves, women and children once they captured by Jihadi warriors. That is how ISIS chooses to respond to the international uproar caused by ISIS kidnapping Yazidi girls and women and turning them into sex slaves. The published pamphlet reveals the horrifying truth of the way ISIS treat their female hostages: not only they see the illegal sexual intercourse with non-Muslim slaves, including young girls, to be a right thing to do, but they also allow to beat them and trade them in.
Rape is a prohibited weapon under the criteria set by the laws of war. It is illegal and inhuman. GJC urges the international community to give a strong response to these outrageous crimes conducted on behalf of Sudanese military, ISIS, and other authorities in war zones and prosecute those that use rape as a tactic of war. The time has come to go beyond the recognition that rape is being used as an illegal weapon/tactic of war – it’s time to start treating it like one.
Today, at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, Ms. Illwad Elman, a Somali-Canadian social activist who works at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center in Mogadishu, used GJC language and mentioned both IHL & abortion in her statement, saying:
“Implementation of international humanitarian law (IHL) in a gender responsive manner is key to enhancing the protection of civilians. Women must have equal access to accountability mechanisms, reparations and non-discriminatory medical care, including safe abortion and post-abortion care for survivors of sexual and gender based violence.”
This is the first time abortion was referenced in connection with the important right to non-discriminatory medical care and IHL at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.
Click here to read the entire statement.
This year has been one of the worst years for children, according to the United Nations. “As many as 15 million children are caught up in violent conflicts in the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, the State of Palestine, Syria and Ukraine,” said the Unicef’s report. “Globally, an estimated 230 million children currently live in countries and areas affected by armed conflicts.”
“This has been a devastating year for millions of children,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves. Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality.”
In the Central African Republic, Syria, Iraq, Gaza, South Sudan, Nigeria millions of children are affected by ongoing conflicts. Young girls are being kidnapped, tortured, forcibly impregnated, forced marriages, withheld from education, raped and turned into sex slaves. Half the victims of rape in conflict zones are children.
The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict that took place in London this June recognized that rape and sexual violence in conflict often has a much bigger impact than the fighting itself, and that one should not underestimate the depth of damage done to individual rape victims. “Sexual violence in conflict zones includes extreme physical violence, the use of sticks, bats, bottles, the cutting of genitals, and the sexual torture of victims who are left with horrific injuries. Many die as a result of these attacks. But survivors can also face a catastrophic rejection by their families and may be cast out from their communities”.
Compounding the suffering is a US foreign policy that denies safe abortion services to girls raped in armed conflict. GJC’s August 12th Campaign challenges this routine denial of full medical rights to war rape victims as a violation of the right to non- discriminatory medical care under the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols.
Young girls who become victims of rape used as weapon of war are forced to bear the child of their rapist. This also is an “unspeakable brutality”.
Republicans in Congress are committed to efforts to drain U.S. aid from international family planning programs. Now, as they are freed from the knowledge that a Senate controlled by Democrats would surely block their most extreme measures, they can succeed and harm women worldwide. The United States should be increasing, not decreasing, its current investment of $610 million in funding to international family planning programs, which already prohibit the use of U.S. foreign aid to provide safe abortions “as a method of family planning.”
The prohibition, introduced in 1973 as part of the Helms Amendment, does not define what constitutes “family planning,” yet Republican and Democratic administrations, including Mr. Obama’s, have treated it as a total ban on funding of abortion under any circumstance. As a result, help is denied to women and girls who are victims of rape or whose lives are threatened by carrying a pregnancy to term.
However, there’s still some light at the end of the tunnel, even despite the serious threats posed by this new Congress to women around the world, The President doesn’t need congressional approval to reinterpret the Helms Amendment. The President should act to clarify that the law allows aid to be used to provide safe abortion to women and girls raped in armed conflict.
GJC urges President Obama to issue an executive order lifting U.S. abortion restrictions on humanitarian aid for girls and women raped in armed conflict. Mr. Obama should use his executive authority to end a longstanding misinterpretation of the Helms Amendment, which prohibits foreign aid money from being used to “pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”
After all, the denial of abortion violates the medical care guarantees of international humanitarian law and the absolute prohibition on gender discrimination under international humanitarian law. It also constitutes torture and cruel treatment in violation of international humanitarian law.
Lift the Ban. Save lives.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. ratifying the UN Convention Against Torture. By formally accepting this treaty 20 years ago, the U.S. Government made a commitment to end the use of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Yet to this day, the U.S. repeatedly fails to meet its commitments under the treaty with its abortion restrictions on foreign assistance to girls and women raped in armed conflict.
In advance of the 53rd session of the Committee against Torture convening on November 3 in Geneva, the GJC and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) submitted a Shadow Report on “US Abortion Restrictions on Foreign Assistance that Deny Safe Abortion Services to Women and Girls Raped in Armed Conflict” to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) that monitors implementation of the Convention. Forty three other reports were submitted through the USHRN (U.S. Human Rights Network) to the Committee as well.
Rape is torture. Forcing women to carry the child of their rapist by denying safe abortion services to war rape victims results in extended and intensified physical and psychological suffering. It is a legal and moral imperative to provide all necessary medical care, including abortion services, to war rape survivors. Currently, as a result of the Helms Amendment, the US has a “no abortion” policy placed on all US foreign aid. GJC & OMCT in their Shadow Report urge the Committee Against Torture to call on the United States to reassess and change this policy that is in violation of the convention.
CAT Day of Action © UNHRN
Today, GJC is participating in the CAT Day of Action. Next month, human rights activists will gather for the United Nations’ review of the U.S. Government’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture. Join GJC in urging President Obama to issue an Executive Order overturning the Helms Amendment on the 20th anniversary of US ratifying CAT.
Stop Violence. End Torture.
US Abortion Restrictions of Foreign Aid Perpetuate Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 21, 2014
[NEW YORK, NY & GENEVA] - Today marks the 20th anniversary of U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Yet to this day, the U.S. repeatedly fails to meet its commitments under the treaty with its abortion restrictions on foreign assistance to girls and women raped in armed conflict.
GJC writes open letter to Commissioner Georgieva of the European Commission in response to her September 8, 2014 letter explaining the European Union's position on abortion and the Geneva Conventions.
The European Union's Duty Under International Humanitarian Law to Ensure Non-Discriminatory Medical Care to Women and Girls Raped in Armed Conflict, Including Access to Safe Abortion Services
Excerpts of EU, International, and National Laws, Policies & Practices Relevant to this Duty
On Anniversary of Geneva Conventions, President Obama Should End U.S. Violations and Lift Abortion Ban on Humanitarian Aid
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 12, 2014
[NEW YORK, NY] – Sixty-five years ago today the United States signed the Geneva Conventions. It is a shame the U.S. now violates the rights of girls and women raped in armed conflict under the Conventions by denying them access to safe abortion services in humanitarian zones.