I wish to inform the House of a new Government initiative on tackling sexual violence in conflict and post conflict situations.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence have been used as weapons against women, men and children in conflicts throughout the world. The scale of sexual violence in situations of conflict and repression is appalling; however, the perpetrators of the worst sexual crimes generally go unpunished. Too many victims are denied justice. And where there is no justice, the seeds of future conflict are sown and development is held back.
The Government believe that tackling sexual violence is an issue which is central to conflict prevention and to peace building, and are committed to tackling such violence, building on vital work that has been done in recent years through the UN and its agencies including landmark Security Council Resolutions, by many NGOs and charities, and by some of the countries themselves which have been most affected by sexual violence.
We want to see a significant increase in the number of successful prosecutions for crimes of sexual violence in conflict with the aim of ending a culture of impunity and establishing a culture of deterrence in its place.
To help rally sustained international action and push this issue up the global agenda, the Government will establish a new UK team of experts devoted to combating and preventing sexual violence in conflict. The team will be able to be deployed overseas at short notice to gather evidence and testimony that can be used to support investigations and prosecutions. It will draw on the skills of doctors, lawyers, police, psychologists, forensic specialists and experts in the care and protection of victims and witnesses. It will significantly strengthen the specialist capabilities that the United Kingdom is able to bring to bear on these issues.
The UK team will also be available to support UN and other international missions, and to provide training and mentoring to national authorities to help them develop the right laws and capabilities. It will also be able to work on the front line with grassroots organisations, local peace builders and human rights activists. Individual deployed teams will be configured to deal with specific instances of sexual violence, and in the light of where the UK can make the best contribution to existing international and national efforts.
The Government intend to use the Foreign Ministers’ track of the United Kingdom’s presidency of the G8 as part of a year-long diplomatic campaign in 2013 for stronger international action to deter and prevent sexual violence in conflict. The Government are already initiating discussions with G8 colleagues about this initiative and will also develop, with United Nations, international and civil society partners, specific action for 2013 and beyond.
I will keep the House informed of progress on this work.