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Prevention of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Detention Settings

Statement by Ambassador Mona Juul at the virtual event ‘Principles on the Prevention of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) in Detention Settings’, 11 February 2021. The event was hosted by Harvard Law School, All Survivors Project, and the Permanent Missions of Norway, Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Thank you very much for the invitation to contribute to this event. I strongly believe it will provide important insights on how we can better address and combat this scourge. The fight against sexual violence in conflict is a priority for Norway.

Sexual violence can destroy not only the victim, but entire families and communities - the very social fabric of a society - for generations. Far too often perpetrators are not brought to justice, and victims and survivors live on with both physical and psychological pain.

Security Council Resolution 2467 clearly affirmed that a survivor-centred approach is required to address conflict-related sexual violence in all United Nations peace-making, peace-keeping, and peace-building initiatives.

Further, it recognised that detention settings as a point of vulnerability for conflict-related sexual violence, particularly for men and boys.

Sexual violence is regrettably diverse, it can take many forms, and be perpetrated by a range of actors, with different motivations. But the underpinning factor is the hetero-patriarchal ideologies which often determine structures of power, and control, in specific contexts.

For example, for men, conflict-related sexual violence is used to disempower or emasculate survivors; and is aimed at punishing, humiliating, terrorising and repressing victims and their communities.

Rape and sexual violence by parties to armed conflict has been documented in a diverse range of situations. Situations of deprivation of liberty, or military contexts, uniquely leaves those associated with armed forces and armed groups, vulnerable to sexual violence by other members of opponent groups. They may also be forced to commit such acts against others.

In these, and other contexts, people with diverse sexual orientation and gender identities may also be uniquely targeted to punish real or perceived “non-compliance” with prevailing gender norms.

Excellencies,

As Chair of the Working Group for Children in armed Conflict, protection of children is a special priority for Norway. Children recruited and used in armed conflict, and by armed groups, should be treated mainly as victims. If deprived of their liberty, they are often being re-victimized and are especially vulnerable to sexual violence and abuse.

Norway adopts a firm position on combating sexual violence. We seek all opportunities to contribute to prevention and response. And see a clear need to strengthen humanitarian and human rights response to the issue of conflict- related sexual violence.

We welcome “The Principles on Preventing Conflict related sexual violence in detention settings” as a crucial contribution to strengthening the prevention framework. The Principles identify preventive and responsive measures applicable to all persons deprived of their liberty in situations of armed conflict. These Principles - which are based on existing international law and standards - aim to support the actions of national and international actors to prevent CRSV in detention settings.

The commentary accompanying each Principle helpfully identifies the sources of legally binding obligations and normative standards; and includes recommendations to support their implementation.

We believe there is a need also to ensure that specific health responses are developed and implemented. Profoundly damaging physical and mental health consequences are commonly experienced by sexual violence survivors. These require emergency medical care, and longer-term mental health and psychosocial support.

We know CRSV is underreported. Often due to fear of retaliation and stigma – and a lack of trust in the judicial system. Challenging underlying harmful gender norms and associated stigma, remains essential for addressing the root causes of CRSV, in parallel with ensuring accountability and justice.

Conflict-related sexual violence in detention is a violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. It can also represent a crime against humanity or an act of genocide. Sexual violence erodes the very societies we are striving to stabilize and rebuild. It destroys the future, as well as the present.

Norway will remain committed to preventing and responding to conflict-related sexual violence. We have been proud to extensively contribute to the development of the whole-of-mission handbook for UN operations, which was released in June last year. 

Today, we re-commit to continuing to work together to end impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict, and to secure access to justice and protection for survivors.