The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to name and shame individuals and parties to armed conflict that are "credibly suspected" of committing rape or other forms of sexual violence.
The council said it intends to use the list, to be compiled by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, "for more focused United Nations engagement with those parties," including imposing targeted sanctions.
The resolution adopted by the council reiterates deep concern that despite its repeated condemnation, rapes and attacks on women and children caught in conflict continue to occur "and in some situations have become systematic and widespread, reaching appalling levels of brutality."
The council action follows the rape of 303 civilians — 235 women, 13 men, 52 girls and 3 boys — in 13 villages in eastern Congo between July 30 and Aug. 2. Even in the conflict-wracked region, where rape has become a daily hazard and some women have been sexually assaulted repeatedly over the years, the numbers released by the U.N. were shocking.
Margot Wallstrom, the U.N. envoy trying to combat sexual violence in conflict, welcomed the adoption of the resolution, saying the new system of monitoring and accountability should "shatter the vicious cycle of impunity for wartime sexual violence."
She stressed that the naming and shaming "must apply equally whether the victim is an eight-year-old girl or an 80-year-old grandmother."
"Today's resolution will help ensure that mass rape is never again met with mass impunity," she said. "Instead of serving as a cheap, silent and effective tactic of war, sexual violence will be a liability for armed groups. It will expose their superiors to increased international scrutiny, seal off the corridors of power and close all exits to those who commit, command or condone such acts."
The International Criminal Court has added rape and sexual violence to the list of war crimes. Congo's former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba is currently on trial at the court in The Hague, Netherlands, for murder, rape and pillage committed by members of his private militia in Central African Republic in 2002-2003. Wallstrom said the number of alleged rapes exceeds the number of killings.
Last month, she said there should be more prosecutions for rape during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. Only 12 cases have been prosecuted out of an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 victims in Bosnia, which shows "the magnitude of the problem," she said.
Human Rights Watch called the council's decision to publish an annual list of alleged perpetrators "a tremendous step toward ending this horrendous practice."
"Today is a big day for women worldwide," Marianne Mollmann, the organization's women's rights advocacy director, said in a statement.
The new resolution will provide the international community "with an additional tool to offer justice to thousands of victims of wartime rape," she said.
The resolution reiterated the council's demand "for the complete cessation with immediate effect by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence" and called on parties to armed conflict "to make and implement specific and time-bound commitments to combat sexual violence."