United Kingdom’s (U.K) Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said his government will not hesitate to impose sanctions on individuals who use rape and sexual assault as a weapon of war in conflict regions.
Cleverly who was addressing delegates at the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Conference 2022 in London noted that the culture of rape and sexual abuse in conflict area is morally abhorrent, illegal, but rampant around the world..
“Sexual violence in conflict is equally immoral. It is a clear breach of international law, and should be a line that is never crossed.
“The very threat of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war, or as part of its aftermath, should bring immediate international condemnation, and swift action to deter those attacks before they occur,” Cleverly said.
He castigated those who abuse women and girls during conflict saying they are cowards who use power strength on defenseless individuals.
“Today, we stand in solidarity with survivors, determined to bring justice. And today I want to send an unequivocal message to those who order, allow or perpetrate sexual violence against women and girls: it isn’t combat; it isn’t strength; it is cowardice. We will not rest in our efforts to protect those potential victims, and prosecute the perpetrators,” he noted.
New evidence has shown that an estimated 20 to 30 per cent of women and girls in conflict-affected settings experience sexual violence.
Cleverly added that if found guilty will face sanctions ranging from asset freezes, travel bans, and aircraft and shipping sanctions.
“Despite our collective efforts, the tragic reality is that sexual violence is occurring in at least 18 active conflicts today and it is clear that we need a stronger global response. We need to make a lot more noise,” he added.
During the conference more than 50 countries signed a declaration to end the scourge of sexual violence in conflict.
“By signing this declaration, we are clear that sexual violence in conflict is a line that should never be crossed. Now is the time to take real action globally to end this horrific crime,” Cleverly further noted.
The Foreign Secretary announced a new three-year strategy to tackle sexual violence in conflict which will be backed by up to £12.5 million of new funding.
The UK has been at the vanguard of efforts to combat conflict-related sexual violence for the past decade, ever since former foreign secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie jointly launched PSVI in 2012.
Since then, the UK has supported nearly 100 projects across 29 countries – from safe shelters in Bosnia, to judicial support in Iraq and Colombia, and training for peacekeepers in East Africa.