UN chief appoints envoy to curb rape in wars

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday said he intended to make Sweden’s Margot Wallstrom his special representative tasked with combating sexual violence against women and children in conflicts.

Ban announced he wanted to appoint the 55-year-old outgoing vice-president of the European Commission during a speech at the opening of the African Union’s 14th summit in Addis Ababa.

“I have informed the UNSC of my intention to appoint Margot Wallstrom, vice-president of the European Commission, as my special representative to intensify efforts to end sexual violence against women and children in conflict situations,” he said.

“We will continue efforts to end the conflicts in the east (of the Democratic Republic of Congo), restore state authority, facilitate the return of refugees, and protect civilians against all forms of violence including sexual violence,” Ban said.

“I’m horrified and outraged by the use of rape as a weapon of war,” he said.

The Swedish diplomat said Sunday she would lobby for sexual violence in war to be recognised as a war crime, attacking what she said was a tendency to explain the abuse of women as “cultural.”

“I say this is not cultural, it is criminal. It is a crime under international law and it is also a war crime,” she told Swedish public radio.

The long-running conflicts in Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — where abuses against women and children are rife — are expected to top the agenda of the AU summit, which winds up on Tuesday.

The United Nation sounded the alarm in November over systematic rape by warring parties in the DRC, where some 5,000 conflict-linked rapes were reported in Sud-Kivu alone for the first half of 2009.



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