Rape as an act of genocide: From Rwanda to Iraq

Governments of Rwanda and Iraq have agreed to work together to fight rape as a weapon of genocide, noting disturbing similarities between sexual violence in Iraq today to the Rwandan genocide twenty years ago.

Just as targeted rape was as much a tool of the Rwandan genocide as the machete, an estimated 3 000 Iraqi Yazidis under the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)’s captivity are currently facing acts of genocide and targeted sexual violence, including sexual slavery.

Given Rwanda’s experience with sexual violence during the Rwandan genocide, Iraq’s permanent mission to the UN has signed a joint communique, an official statement establishing a relationship with Rwanda’s permanent mission to the UN.

Bangura speaks to the gathering

The joint effort aims at sharing action plans to rehabilitate women victims and reintegrate them into their communities.

Rwanda was the first country where rape was recognised as a weapon of genocide by an international court. This court case was the subject of a documentary, The Uncondemned, which recently premiered at the UN.

The documentary is centred around the case of Jean Paul Akayesu, the mayor of Taba in Rwanda between April 1993 and June 1994, who was brought before the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR).

He was found guilty of nine counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, including the landmark conviction of rape as an act of genocide in 1998.

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura described the importance of recognising rape as an act of genocide.

Bangura paid tribute to the Rwandan women who testified in the Akayesu trial as well as two Iraqi Yazidi women, one of whom is an ISIL rape survivor, present at the screening and praised them for “giving other women the confidence to emerge from the shadows.”

“The film demonstrates that when survivors and civil society come together  with investigators, prosecutors and policy makers, justice can be delivered in its fullest sense,” said Bangura.

Thousands of people were targeted with sexual violence during the Rwandan genocide, said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng.

Iraq’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Mohamed Ali Ahakim also appealed to the international community for help.— IPS


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