News / Slider / April 21, 2016

Nicola presses for action to stop rape as a weapon of war

Nicola spoke out in a House of Commons debate discussing the actions of Daesh against Yazidis, Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East, and how they can be recognised as ‘genocide’ in international law.

Following reports of genocidal violence in Syria and Iraq, the United States Congress, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, have each declared that Daesh is committing genocide against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria. This debate was scheduled in the Commons to urge the Government to join others in defining these horrific acts as genocide. With the UK as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, this would mean they can be considered as such by the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court, allowing the ICC to investigate and prosecute.

The motion drew support from across the House, and also from several QC Peers in the Lords who have recently written to the Prime Minister to urge that, “regardless of any authoritative judicial decision, there is nothing to prevent Her Majesty’s Government forming and acting upon its own view.”

Nicola spoke to support the motion, and to stress the need for intervention against the use of rape as a weapon of war and urge the Foreign Office to ensure there is the mechanism in place for a specific Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict (PSVI) team to work on the ground and collate evidence.

Nicola said:

The right hon. Gentleman is making a very good case. I entirely support the motion, and I congratulate my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce on securing the debate. It is clear that ISIS is using rape as a strategic weapon of war. It is being used not only as a form of ethnic cleansing but as an unthinkable form of forced conversion. One victim recounted being shown an officially headed ISIS letter stating that any captured woman would become a Muslim if 10 ISIS fighters raped her. Will the right hon. Gentleman support my call to the Government today to assemble a specific preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative team to support local health and criminal justice teams in gathering evidence, so that these appalling crimes do not go unpunished?

The motion passed unanimously, and the Foreign Office Minister, Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, addressed the points made stating that although he does believe genocide has taken place, the definition of it in this way is a matter of legal rather than political opinion. He did however stress that discussions were under way on the UN Security Council to refer to the ICC.

In addressing the points made by Nicola, the Minister assured the House that the Government will do ‘everything we can to help gather evidence that could be used by the judicial bodies, who are the appropriate people to judge these matters, to make a judgement’. He added, ‘It is vital that this is done now, before evidence is lost or destroyed’.

Nicola will not be letting the pressure drop here, having done a lot of work in the area of sexual violence against women dating back to before her time as Member of Parliament and also as the Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security.

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