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UNHRC 29th Session: Agenda Item 3, General Debate
June 22, 2015

Item 3: General Debate
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Wes Reisser
29th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
June 22, 2015 – Geneva

Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States appreciates our close cooperation with partners to fulfill this body’s mandate to promote and protect human rights for all.

In many conflict zones across the globe, the scourge of sexual violence continues to be used as a tactic of war.  The international community must do more to hold perpetrators accountable and to provide justice and effective rehabilitation and remedy to survivors.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, hundreds of thousands of women have been raped during the long-standing conflict in the east.  UN and NGO reports alike document many cases of rape by both military and paramilitary forces.  Accountability and redress for victims have been rare.  Efforts to improve and expand access to justice are a promising start.  Increasing numbers of rulings, enforcement of court orders, and payment of damages remain critical needs in upholding rule of law and restoring dignity to survivors.

In South Sudan, gender-based violence was a widespread issue before the conflict began in December 2013, and is now even more prevalent.  All sides to the conflict have used sexual violence and rape as a weapon, and the thousands who have fled their homes for refugee and IDP camps remain vulnerable.

In both Iraq and Syria, we have heard from victims directly that ISIL abducts, enslaves, rapes, and sells women and girls.  Women who are members of minority groups, including many Yezidi, have been directly targeted by this horrific form of gender-based violence.  Additionally women and girls, as well as some men and boys, are subjected to imprisonment, torture, and rape by the Asad regime.

The U.S. government’s approach to prevention and response elevates the priority of supporting survivors, promoting accountability for perpetrators, and investing in gender equality as a cornerstone of prevention.  Last year, Secretary Kerry announced a new effort, the Accountability Initiative, aimed at developing unique and innovative solutions—such as specialized judicial mechanisms—to promote justice for victims.

Ultimately our response must have a targeted focus on prevention, and be one that enlists women as equal partners in decision-making about justice and security.  This is a simple and powerful concept: that efforts at gender-based violence prevention and peace building are stronger, and that around the world, constitutions and peace agreements are more inclusive, just, and lasting when women have a say in how societies rebuild peace and recover from conflict.

We urge other members of this Council to join us in calling attention to this brutal and reprehensible violence, which happens all too often in regions wracked by conflict.  Together, we must work with the UN, national governments, and civil society to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.  Equally importantly, we must work together to ensure that survivors receive treatment, rehabilitation, and effective remedies to recover and rebuild their lives and communities.

Thank you Mr. President.