The Foreign Secretary William Hague and Special Envoy Angelina Jolie have launched a Protocol to increase prosecutions for sexual violence in conflict at the End Sexual Violence In Conflict Global in London.
The overwhelming majority of perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict are not held to account for the crimes they commit. This has led to a global culture of impunity for warzone rape.
The new International Protocol, the first of its kind, aims to set an international standard for how to investigate and document sexual violence, as a way of increasing the number of prosecutions for these crimes worldwide and ensuring that victims are cared for.
Mr Hague and Ms Jolie are calling for governments to announce their support for the Protocol, and pledge to implement it in full. They want it to become a turning point in how crimes of sexual violence in conflict are investigated, and ultimately deterred.
William Hague said: "This Protocol is the first of its kind, and we hope it will play a vital role in shattering the culture of impunity for sexual violence in conflict.
“This impunity is a major factor in why these crimes continue.
“Up to 50,000 women were victims of sexual violence during the war in Bosnia, but only just over sixty people have been successfully prosecuted for it. From Central African Republic to Sudan to Syria, untold thousands of rapes have gone entirely unpunished.
“We know that one of the primary reasons for the lack of prosecutions for sexual violence in conflict is the difficulty of gathering evidence that can stand up in court, and the trauma and the stigma faced by survivors in the process.
“This Protocol is designed to overcome those fundamental barriers.
“And we are determined to ensure that prosecutors, police forces, peacekeepers and civil society on the front line in this struggle know how best to document and investigate sexual violence in conflict so that perpetrators can be successfully prosecuted.”
Angelina Jolie added: "I have met survivors of warzone rape around the world. And almost without exception they ask for one thing – justice: The right to be accepted, not shunned, by society. The right to long-term economic and health support. And above all, the right to see their attackers held accountable in a court of law – because warzone rape is not a lesser crime, it is a crime against humanity.
“Today, these rights are denied to millions of survivors around the world.
“The number of convictions for warzone sexual rape is pitifully small. People who rape innocent women, men and children during conflict assume that they will simply get away with it, because they have.
“The few cases that are brought forward are often thrown out for lack of evidence, despite the testimonies from brave survivors.
“This is an intolerable situation.
“That is why, at the heart of this campaign, we are calling for an end to impunity: Perpetrators have to know that even during conflict, evidence is being collected that will be used against them. They have to know that when peace agreements are made, there will be no amnesty for rape and that if they commit these crimes, they will bear the stigma and punishment – no matter how long it takes.
“We all know how hard it is to secure convictions for rape even in stable democratic countries. So we have to work even harder to make justice possible in fragile countries.
“And that is the purpose of this Protocol.
“It is an essential document, and I am so grateful to the hundreds of experts and survivors who have played their part in drafting it.
“The Foreign Secretary and I are determined to work hard to ensure that it is implemented. And we will be asking all the governments coming to the Summit tomorrow to adopt the Protocol and back it fully.
“As a part of the next stage of our campaign, we will follow-up on how it’s implemented and what more still needs to be done.
“I hope that by all of us working together, we can support survivors for the long but not impossible road to justice and finally, really, truly end impunity.”