Ahead of an international summit resisting sexual violence in the midst of conflict, Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See stated that it is a “massive” problem, and has called for justice.
“Man has a very wide armory of cruelty to be applied against fellow man,” Nigel Baker told CNA June 3, adding that the “brutal and cruel” use of sexual violence “is one of the worst forms of violence.”
Baker, who has been the British ambassador to the Holy See since 2011, has been working in collaboration with the embassy and various other international entities to prepare for the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The largest international gathering ever held to address this issue, the summit will take place in London June 10-13 and is being co-chaired by British Foreign secretary William Hague and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees special envoy Angelina Jolie.
Observing that there will be 1,200 delegates and 150 governments represented in the conference, Baker explained that the intention behind the summit “is very simple. It’s to end sexual violence in conflict. To turn the huge political will there is to do something about it into practical action on the ground.”
“It’s a massive, massive problem. It’s something we see applied on a systematic and huge scale nowadays in almost any conflict,” he noted, drawing attention to the current violent unrest in Syria, Bosnia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and South Sudan.
Describing how there have been more than 200,000 documented cases from the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone, the ambassador explained that there are many more undocumented cases that continually go unreported.
“This is 200,000 women whose lives have been destroyed, their villages traumatized, their families wrecked…It’s something we see more and more of,” he observed, “and what’s worse is the perpetrators, very, very few have ever faced justice.”
“We’re determined to see that reversed…we can’t see this massive scale crime continue, we want to stop it dead.”
Explaining the motivations behind the use of sexual violence in conflict, which is often ordered by military leaders, Baker noted that “in many cases it’s used as a weapon to intimidate populations.”
“Sometimes it’s almost an aspect of ethnic cleansing, in a particularly brutal and cruel fashion,” he noted, adding that the majority of women currently coming out of Syria “have either witnessed or suffered rape.”
“It’s something that we see too often,” he continued, stating that if the use of sexual violence in conflict were to come to an end now, “we’ll see it again in the future.”
This, the ambassador pointed out, is because “it’s so difficult to collect evidence, so difficult to prove that it happened,” but “we’re determined that that won’t be the case again.”
Expressing his hope for the outcome of the summit, Baker stated that the ultimate goal is that political will to do something “be turned into a specific action.”
“Of course we don’t want to see conflicts breaking out anywhere, but when the next conflict breaks out this particular weapon in the cruel armory of man will not be used because the potential perpetrators know that they can’t get away with it.”
Another hope, he said, is that “societies know how to respond and how to prevent it from happening. So the aim is never again.”