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Women raped by Daesh need justice, UK ex-foreign minister says

Image of UN refugee agency special envoy Angelina Jolie [file photo]
UN refugee agency special envoy Angelina Jolie [file photo]

Britain’s former foreign minister William Hague called on Thursday for greater efforts to prosecute rape in conflict zones such as Myanmar, Nigeria and Iraq, six years after he launched an initiative with Hollywood’s Angelina Jolie to end the crime, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.

Hague and Oscar-winning actress Jolie launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative in 2012 to stop impunity for rape and boost support for survivors, but critics say it has failed to achieve significant results.

“As things stand, no member of ISIS or Boko Haram or the armed forces of Burma has been brought to trial for crimes of sexual violence,” Hague told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of a summit hosted by the initiative.

I would classify what we have done so far as a vital start rather than a decisive breakthrough of any kind against crimes of sexual violence which continue on a massive scale.

The foreign office said in a statement that the initiative had trained 17,000 military and police on sexual violence since 2012 and deployed an expert team to help gather evidence of sex crimes more than 90 times.

“The UK remains highly committed to preventing and responding to conflict-related sexual violence,” it said.

United Nations (UN) investigators estimate 7,000 Yazidi women and girls were forced into sex slavery by Daesh, or ISIS, in a 2014 assault on their Iraqi heartland.

Read: Iraq launches airstrikes against Daesh in Syria

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney said in 2016 she aimed to prosecute the Islamist group through the International Criminal Court for crimes against the Yazidi.

Hague, who stood down as foreign minister in 2014, called for the UN to set up an independent body to increase the number of experts engaged in collecting high-quality evidence of rape and other serious crimes during war to help ensure trials.

British lawmakers said in January they were “disappointed” the Hague-Jolie initiative only sent two specialists to respond to reports of mass rape of Rohingya women in Myanmar during a crackdown which forced 720,000 refugees to flee to Bangladesh.

Read: Military intervention to protect the Rohingya still isn’t on the Western agenda

“The UK made big promises but has turned out to have very little capacity or willingness to provide leadership on provision of services, evidence collection and preservation, or justice,” said Heather Bar, a Human Rights Watch researcher.

The foreign office initiative is set to host a film festival focusing on sexual violence in London on Friday and Saturday in an effort to break taboos around the subject.

Jolie – who will guest edit BBC Radio 4‘s flagship Today programme next month – is expected to appear at the festival.

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