The UN Security Council on Tuesday adopted a watered-down, German-drafted resolution on sexual violence in conflicts, after last-minute amendments were added to appease the US.
The US had threatened a veto due to references to “sexual and reproductive healthcare” for survivors of rape and abuse in wartime, saying the wording amounted to support for abortion.
The vote passed 13-0, with veto-wielding permanent members Russia and China abstaining, after Germany was forced to bow to the US pressure and remove the text on sexual and reproductive health.
Despite the weakened text, German foreign minister Heiko Maas said the resolution would facilitate the punishment of perpetrators of sexual violence, including applying sanctions, and supporting victims.
Maas said that the resolution brought victims to the centre of attention.
“The resolution calls on all UN member states to support victims through better access to justice, medical and psychological assistance and reintegration into society,” he said.
The resolution also draws attention to victims of sexual violence who have too often been ignored, he said, including men, boys, mothers and children.
France criticises US position
The US position drew criticism from other Security Council members, with France’s Ambassador Francois Delattre saying he was “appalled” by the US demand.
It is “inexplicable that access to sexual and reproductive health is not explicitly recognised for victims of sexual violence, who are often the targets of atrocious acts of violence and barbaric mutilation,” he told the 15-member body.
What does the resolution state?
The resolution expressed concern at “the slow progress” in addressing sexual abuse in conflicts, which occur with impunity “and in some situations have become systematic and widespread, reaching appalling levels of brutality.”
It also urges providing justice for victims, but under pressure from the United States references to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in prosecuting suspected perpetrators of sexual violence were eliminated. The United States is not a member of the ICC out of concern for the sovereignty of US courts and the prospect of war crimes cases being opened against US soldiers and officials.
Nobel Peace Prize winners slam global inaction
Speaking at the UN before the vote, they condemned the international organisation’s failure to act.
“Not a single person has been charged for sexual slavery,” said Murad in reference to the massacres and enslavement of her Yazidi community by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.