UN envoy finds six month old babies victims of rape in war

Wednesday 17 April 2013 21.49
Zainab Hawa Bangura told the 15-member council it was still largely 'cost-free' to rape a woman, child or man in conflict
Zainab Hawa Bangura told the 15-member council it was still largely 'cost-free' to rape a woman, child or man in conflict

United Nations envoy on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura has visited a Congolese district where rebels raped babies.

Ms Bangura said that this must be reversed to make it a "massive liability to commit, command or condone sexual violence in conflict."

Any future peace and ceasefire deals in conflicts like Syria and Mali must include sexual violence prevention, Ms Bangura said.

Ms Bangura, a former health minister of Sierra Leone, said she plans to visit Syria, Mali and South Sudan as soon as possible.

She said: "I visited a community where last year 11 babies, between 6 and 12 months old, were raped by elements of Mai Mai Morgan," a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ms Banngura when in Somalia met a woman paid $150 restitution for the rape of her 4-year-old daughter.

She met a refugee at a camp in Kenya who had been raped at gunpoint when she was eight-months-pregnant while gathering firewood.

In another instance, she met a Somali father who was fighting for justice for his daughters, aged four and six, who had both been raped.

She told the 15-member council it was still largely "cost-free" to rape a woman, child or man in conflict.

Ms Bangura said in Ituri district in turbulent eastern Congo on its border with Uganda - 59 children aged between one and three, and 182 children between five and 15-years-old had been raped last year.

A written report to the Security Council from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, based on Ms Bangura's work, named 14 armed groups along with the Congolese army and police that it said used sexual violence in conflict.

The report also lists groups in Central African Republic and groups and government forces in Ivory Coast, Syria and Mali.

Since January 2012, there have been 211 cases of sexual violence reported in Mali, including rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage and gang rape, according to the report.

Mr Ban's report claimed: "the majority of women and girls refused to report for fear of retribution and banishment by their spouses and the community,"

He said. "In rebel-controlled zones, rape was used as a tactic of war."

Ms Bangura told reporters the insecurity and lack of access in Syria meant it was hard to determine the scale of the problem.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin and Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari criticised the report for not reporting accusations of sexual violence by opposition groups during Syria's two-year-old civil war.

"Responsibility for sexual crimes in Syria is placed only on government forces and their supporters.

Similar crimes committed by the opposition are only obliquely referenced in spite of the presence of many such claims of them," Mr Churkin told the council.

Ms Bangura described sexual violence in conflict as "war's oldest and least condemned crime."

"Sexual violence has been used throughout the ages because it's such a cheap and devastating weapon," she told the Security Council.

She said: "The perpetrators must understand that there can be no hiding place, no amnesty, no safe harbour."