African Union: Respect of Law of War protects women and girls during conflict

ICRC Statement during the AU Peace and Security Council session to celebrate UNSC Res 1325

19 October 2018
African Union: Respect of Law of War protects women and girls during conflict

AU Peace and Security Council: Celebration of UNSC Res 1325


OPEN SESSION OF THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN CONFLICT PREVENTION AND PEACEBUILDING AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL


International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)


Statement Delivered by
Ms. Diane Misenga Kabeya
Deputy Head of Delegation


Addis Ababa, 19 October 2018


Honorable Chair,

Members of the Peace and Security Council,

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes this open session devoted to the Commemoration of the United Nation Security Council's Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. The ICRC is committed to the spirit of this Resolution and pledges throughout its activities, including with the African Union, to the respect that international humanitarian law (IHL) guarantees for women and girls.

The ICRC believes that greater respect for this body of law can contribute to the realization of priorities articulated in Resolution 1325 in relation to special measures to protect women and girls from rape and other forms of sexual violence when committed in connection with armed conflict.

Key message 1: Sexual violence in situations of armed conflict:

Women are frequently placed at the epicenter of conflicts, endangered not only because of their proximity to the fighting, but also because they can be deliberately targeted as a tactic or strategy of war. In addition to the risk of bodily injury and sexual violence, war may compromise women's access to health care, resulting in their displacement, separation from family, or affect their food security.

Indeed, greater respect for the rules of IHL would alleviate much of this suffering borne by women and girls in armed conflict today.

Recommendation: As such, States must criminalize rape and other forms of sexual violence committed during and in connection with an armed conflict within their domestic legal systems. States also have an obligation to investigate and prosecute or, as applicable, to extradite the perpetrators of such crimes.

Key message 2: Prevention of sexual violence

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mechanisms for enforcing rights and redressing violations are also of crucial importance as stated in Resolution 1325. The ICRC emphasizes that an urgent theme when considering the needs of women during conflict is prevention. While it is imperative that the international community reacts to sexual violence as to any other war crime, it is also essential that States resolutely engage in preventing sexual violence.

Recommendation: In this respect, the ICRC calls on States to ensure that provisions of IHL relating to the protection of women and girls – in times of war but also in peace – are incorporated into their national legislation.

Key message 3: The role of women in protecting their communities

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ICRC is also focusing on reinforcing self-protection mechanisms and strategies within affected communities. Indeed, communities and individuals affected by armed conflict and violence do not wait for humanitarian or other actors to address the problems and threats they face. They permanently monitor their surroundings and take decisions themselves: displacing themselves as a self-protection mechanism, deciding how best to travel in groups and to ensure that children and the elders are not left behind during flight, choosing in advance which road to take, discussing locations to avoid, negotiating directly with weapon bearers, etc. The role of women in these decision-making processes is often primordial, though not often recognized or validated.

Specific to women, the ICRC strives to ensure equality of access and participation of women to its programmes and activities, and to support women to identify ways to mitigate exposure to risks or harmful coping strategies (such as supporting them to organize in groups or associations to carry on daily activities, to identify safe places and hours for movement, to set up warning systems in case of an imminent threat, etc...)

To conclude, Mr. Chair,

The ICRC is convinced that respect for and compliance with the law of armed conflict is the best way to ensure protection of the lives of those that are not parties to an armed conflict. Support for self-protection mechanisms and coping strategies of local communities, including those developed by women in affected communities have a proven track record to helping save lives.

Thank you for your attention.