Allegations that Colonel Gaddafi has used a new aspect of repression by ordering his forces to use rape as a weapon of war have reminded us once again that women and girls are so often used as a pawn in bloody battles.
Hundreds of women have reportedly been raped according to The Guardian under Gaddafis orders. There are also reports that Gaddafis forces are taking Viagra to carry out this dreadful act.
Rape is traumatic for anyone whatever the circumstances. Not only does it cause physical and psychological harm to the victim, it also impacts the victims family and friends. Multiply this by hundreds (or thousands) and place this in a context where animosity and anger already burns between communities and the impact is devastating.
As Amnesty has seen in wars in Democratic Republic of Congo, Bosnia and Chad for example mass rape can have cripple communities which is why it so is regularly ordered by, often desperate leaders. It brings shame and stigma to the woman (predominantly) and her family; it spreads terror amongst communities and can lead to families and communities becoming destabilised and demoralised. Some women who are raped dare not disclose the fact for fear that it would jeopardise their relations with family members or their social status. Amnesty has witnessed the impact that this dreadful tactic has upon women and their families and the wider communities and have regularly called on world leaders to clamp down on this form of punishment in war. Yet despite UN resolutions including UN 1820 and the more recent 1888 which condemn such acts and have described the use of mass rapes in conflict as a war crime where the heaviest penalty must be meted out, it is still a tactic reportedly being used in a very present conflict.
It is right for the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to thoroughly investigate these allegations and send a clear message not only in Libya but around the world that this is one war crime which no one should be allowed to get away with.
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