Skip to Main Content
Printer Friendly Home > Press > Press Releases

For Immediate Release

UN Security Council Resolution to End Rape as Weapon of War: Now Nations Must Enforce

Cambridge, Mass - 06/26/2008

Physicians for Human Rights applauds the UN Security Council's unanimous passage of a resolution declaring rape and sexual violence an unacceptable "war tactic." The Nobel Prize-winning PHR has over two decades of experience investigating and reporting in conflict-affected countries where perpetrators commit rape, as the resolution notes, to "humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group."

"The Security Council's action acknowledges what PHR has witnessed from Bosnia to Sierra Leone, from Darfur to Kosovo. Widespread and systematic sexual violence in war is as terrifying as guns and bombs," said Susannah Sirkin, PHR's Deputy Director. It shatters bodies and minds, but also devastates families, and communities."

Along with the physical and psychological scars from attacks, rape victims are often rejected by their husbands, who view them as having brought shame to the family, and sometimes these women are stigmatized by their communities. Often, the ongoing conflict prevents women from seeking medical attention. And, in many countries, women have little confidence in or access to broken judicial systems with discriminatory laws that actively impede women from seeking justice.

"In Darfur, for example, women who have come forward charging rape have been countercharged with adultery – for having sex outside of marriage," said Karen Hirschfeld, Director of PHR's Darfur Survival Campaign. "The penalty for adultery there is death by stoning. Despite this threat, women have come forward, desperate for help and still demanding justice."

While women bear the greatest burden, rape impacts any community in which it is used as a weapon of war. PHR investigators learned from Darfurian women that their attackers often raped women in front of family members, or out in the open where people could see.

"The use of rape in this way publicly humiliates the husbands and shames the women – a direct attack on the familial and societal bonds of Darfur's people," added Ms. Hirschfeld, who recently returned from a trip to Chad. "We heard of families who exiled their daughters and of traumatized and terrified mothers who abandoned their newborn babies in latrines because they were conceived through rape."

Last week's Security Council Resolution marks one step towards addressing the severe and lasting consequences of the use of rape during conflict. However, the resolution is non-binding. The will of governments around the world is now required to protect women and girls, to punish those who instigate, support and directly perpetrate this heinous war crime, and to remove this horrific weapon from war's arsenal.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

PHR News