The UN special envoy on sexual violence in conflict chided the Security Council for failing to mention it in two recent resolutions on Libya, despite having made the subject a priority.
In a speech to the council, Margot Wallstrom said measures against sexual violence should be “automatically and systematically included” in provisions to protect civilians like those in the Libya resolutions.
“Otherwise, interventions on the frontlines may relegate women’s security to the sidelines,” she said.
As recently as last December, a resolution on sexual violence in conflict listed tough measures the United Nations should take to combat the crime, leading women to expect action would be taken to prevent it, Wallstrom said, Reuters reports.
“And yet, resolutions 1970 and 1973 on Libya make no mention of the risk of sexual violence — a risk that is all too real in contexts of escalating unrest and mass displacement,” she said.
The two resolutions, passed on February 26 and March 17, imposed sanctions on Libyan leaders and a no-fly zone over Libya as well as “all necessary measures” to protect civilians as rebels battle with the government to control the country.
Wallstrom, a former Swedish politician who has given her current job a high profile with outspoken comments since she was appointed last year, said human rights conditions described in the resolutions often signaled spikes in sexual violence.
“However, when it is not explicitly included in mandates and the related political discussions, the question is unlikely to be asked,” she said. Resolution 1970 had been “an opportunity for the council to raise a red flag,” she added, implying that the opportunity had been missed.
Wallstrom said reports of rape in Libya remained unconfirmed but cited the highly publicized case of Eman al-Obaidi, the woman who burst into a journalists’ hotel in Tripoli last month saying she had been raped by pro-government militiamen.
“Though it may not be obvious what gender has to do with arms embargoes or no-fly zones, we must remember women,” Wallstrom said.
Three of the 15 current ambassadors on the Security Council — those of the United States, Brazil and Nigeria — are women, a high proportion by the council’s standards.
Wallstrom praised the council for mentioning sexual violence in a March 30 resolution on Ivory Coast, where there had been reports of apparently politically targeted assaults. The incidents should be considered when the mandate of U.N. peacekeepers there is reviewed shortly, she said.
She also said she was encouraged by an apparent tougher line against sexual violence by leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where thousands of rapes, some by government army soldiers, have been reported in recent years in the turbulent east.