UN Nuncio speaks at open debate on sexual violence in armed conflict

2013-04-20 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Below is a Statement by H.E. Francis A. Chullikatt, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, in the Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security
Mr. President

My delegation wishes to congratulate you, Mr. President, for Rwanda’s Presidency of the Security Council this month and for convening the present Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict. We would like to thank the Secretary-General, as well, for his Report on Sexual Violence in Conflict (S/2013/149).

Since the adoption of the resolution 1325 (2000), the International Community has followed closely the role of women in the context of war or post war situations, not only as victims but primarily as agents and important contributors to “the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building” […], stressing …the need to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution”. My delegation commends these efforts and is convinced that there is ample room for a greater involvement of women, especially in view of the prevention of war, for the reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of societies in post-war situations, and for avoiding relapses into armed conflicts. Women can and should play greater roles as allies of peace!

In the light of this, it is even more frustrating and saddening, the report under consideration describes, the continued episodes of sexual violence, including, inter alia, rape, forced sterilization, abduction for sexual purposes and sexual slavery to name just a few of the egregious acts of violence against women. As recognized, women and girls are predominantly affected by sexual violence, although men and boys too are victims of such heinous acts. The underlying reasons are varied; in some cases, it is done as a strategy to displace populations, in order to gain access to natural resources or to facilitate drug trafficking, while in other cases it becomes a way to vent hatred for a certain race, ethnicity, or as political and economic retaliations. In this regard, it is disappointing that the report fails to highlight the targeted attacks against the said victims based on their religious beliefs despite the persistence of such acts in nearly every region of the world. Also the perpetrators, too, are varied and can be found in both legitimate State actors, such as those in a position of trust as armed or security forces or even UN peacekeepers, as well as non-state actors.

This violent domination of a human being constitutes an egregious form of degradation of their dignity, but also of the aggressor, who, in so doing, disfigures himself as a human person. Such heinous crimes are yet another consequence of the destructive power of war and thus all States and the international community must do their utmost to stop these barbarous acts that has been properly labeled as an outrage to the conscience of mankind.

Mr. President,

My delegation wishes to focus its remarks on the following three aspects:

    Regarding prevention, it seems not unfitting to recall how one of the first forms of prevention for these crimes is constituted by our own intense and timely intervention for the resolution of crises through various peaceful means, of which the international community is well equipped, such as, prevention of conflicts through mediation, recourse to international measures, as well as a commitment to tackle the underlying social and economic causes of conflicts. Alongside these broader protection efforts should be specific prevention measures, for example, the education in discipline and moral fiber of armed forces and awareness campaigns in those values which offer a proper vision of women in society.


    The second aspect concerns the notion of criminal responsibility. The report is at pains to address the duty to prosecute those culpable for the commission of crimes of sexual violence. In this, my delegation expresses the importance of adopting and implementing action plans and legislation aimed at protecting these victims from violence and holding perpetrators accountable. In cases where the Security Council is called upon to intervene, appropriate measures should be taken to reaffirm the outright interdiction of these crimes, as well as the criminal liability of those responsible for their commission. It is imperative that the work of monitoring and of subsequent judicial proceedings be characterized by justice and equity and not political interests, which could undermine the noble motivations and efforts to combat such crimes.


    Victims’ assistance is the third issue, which seems to be rather less evidenced in the report. Indeed, in order to ensure that reprisals or retribution in the pursuit of justice do not become an end in themselves, it is necessary to keep the focus on reparation for victims. It is essential that victims be afforded every assistance; whereas, on the contrary, all too frequently victims of sexual assault become ostracized from their communities – especially those who report sexual violence or those who have become pregnant as a result of a rape. Particularly disturbing here is the re-victimization of a woman or girl who is raped when she is forced to live with her aggressor as a “wife”. Obviously, sexual violence leads to devastating physical and psychological consequences, sometimes even fatal. Of concern to my delegation in this regard is the mention in the report to what is euphemistically styled “access to safe pregnancies termination services”. Here, concealed by a veil of words, lies the stark reality of the suppression of human life, the death of the innocent unborn child – which only visits further violence on a woman already in difficulty. Rather, the “woman with child” should be offered care, support, education, counseling, and assistance, to meet her material, social and spiritual needs during and after her pregnancy – including, if necessary, the possibility of finding a family to adopt her child.


In the final analysis, peace is more about people than it is about particular structures. People who “foster peace first of all in their own hearts” give rise, in turn, to “innumerable gestures of peace” and advance respect for the right to life and security of all persons, especially women and children.[1]
Thank you, Mr. President.