Papal visit: Rape and sexual slavery condemned as ‘tactic of war’

Papal visit: Rape and sexual slavery condemned as ‘tactic of war’

Pope_Francis_Malacanang_7In what many describe as a triumphant visit this week to the United States, Pope Francis at one point delivered a dramatic address before world leaders gathered in New York City at the United Nations. His Holiness urged world leaders to take decisive action to protect “the excluded” and that “human beings [should] take precedence over partisan interests.”  During his remarks, that were broadcast throughout the globe, the Pope warned about the realities in the Middle East and Africa being a grave situation for the entire world.

“I must renew my repeated appeals regarding the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries,” said the Pontiff, who will end his visit on Sunday evening. “These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs.”

The United Nations Security Council has continued its condemnation of the widespread “war tactic” that uses sexual enslavement and sexual violence such as sexual assault and forced marriage. These acts of brutality are rationalized as tactics of war especially in Syria and Iraq. The Security Council has in the past implored all sides of an armed conflict to protect civilians from such barbaric acts.

In a statement to the press, the Security Council described its briefing by UN Special Representative Zainab Bangura about her travels to the Middle East. She expressed her concerns about the treatment of civilians by both government forces and those calling themselves jihadists and “freedom-fighters.”  Ms. Bangura explicitly condemned all forms of sexual violence in Syria and Iraq.

“Security Council members were reminded that rape and other forms of sexual violence during armed conflicts are prosecutable war crimes and are horrific breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The members urged the global community to hold those responsible for such war crimes accountable,” said former U.S. police advisor Joseph Langera, who helped train police in Iraq after the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein.

“As with police in Western nations, cops in the Middle East and Africa must be allowed by their political leaders to enforce the laws meant to protect the weak from the brutal and overbearing terrorists and radicals,” Langera added.

The Security Council members have been stressing the need to bring conflicts in the Middle East to an end in order to reduce the opportunity for sexual violence to be committed. Reports of women and young girls — sometimes young boys — being raped and sodomized are common especially in the so-called war-torn provinces.

Pope Francis and the Security Council indicated that they are disturbed by the reports of chemical weapons use by both the Assad regime and ISIS, including chlorine gas and mustard gas, in Syria. In a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York City, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated that a resolution adopted by the UN Security Council, is a strong collective message from the international community that any use of chemical weapons “shall not be tolerated and will have consequences.”

That UN resolution has called for the establishment of a “Joint Investigative Mechanism” to identify the government’s military forces or Islamic terrorist groups using chemical weapons in Syria.

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