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Libya Aiming to Make Rape in Armed Conflict a War Crime


World  (tags: women, violence, society, safety, rights, law, government, freedoms, ethics, abuse, 'HUMANRIGHTS!', conflict, humanrights, HumanRights, africa, world )

JL
- 537 days ago - guardian.co.uk
The testimony of a woman who was sexually tortured under the Gaddafi regime is proving a catalyst for political change in Libya



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Comments

JL A. (276)
Friday July 5, 2013, 2:27 pm
Silent protest demonstrators with taped mouths take part in a march supporting women raped during the war in Libya. Photograph: Mohamed Salem/Reuters
 

Roger Garin-michaud (114)
Friday July 5, 2013, 3:23 pm
noted, thanks!
 

JL A. (276)
Friday July 5, 2013, 3:41 pm
You are welcome Roger!
 

Alan Lambert (97)
Friday July 5, 2013, 4:21 pm
When Hussein was searching desperately for his son in the last days of the 2011 revolution that toppled Libya's dictator, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, he was told of a villa in Tripoli. He and other anti-government fighters went there on 20 August.

They found nothing. At first.

But inside was a massive door that it took them a long time to open. "Beyond it was a long, shallow flight of stairs about 80 in all," says Hussein, 57, whose full name is being withheld at his request.

At the bottom was a torture chamber, including apparatus for electrocution. Beyond was a corridor lined with cells.

"When we broke into the cells, we were astonished," says Hussein. "The first three were full of naked women maybe 35 in all."

He and his companions could not have guessed, but they were setting in train a sequence of events that has led to the drafting of a bill that Libya's new leaders and NGOs believe is a world first. It would make rape during armed conflict a war crime.

"It has already been discussed in committee," says Juma Ahmad Atigha, deputy president of the general national congress (GNC). "In a few weeks it will be put to a vote in the GNC."

Atigha, who was in Rome this week for a conference on reconciliation in the Arab spring countries, points out that rape is already a crime under Libyan law. "The usual sentence is around 10 years," he says. But rapists convicted under the proposed new law would face life.

It has yet to be decided whether those affected would be entitled to a war pension. But, says Atigha, it was agreed that they should get lump-sum compensation from the state. "That is a must. The plan is for the courts to set the level of compensation case by case. Among the criteria would be whether a pregnancy resulted from the rape and the severity of the injuries suffered by the victim. Some of these women died."

Getting the bill to this stage was not easy, Atigha says. "Ours is a conservative society and anything that has to do with women is very sensitive. Rape is a very big scandal for a family, even though the woman has been forced: it is an attack on the dignity of the family, and the tribe to which it belongs.

"But that is why the regime used rape. So it was logical to regard it as a war crime."

The number of women affected ran into the hundreds, according to Atigha. Nicoletta Gaida, president of the Ara Pacis Initiative, an Italian NGO, thought it could be thousands.

The turning point for the bill came at a conference in Tripoli on 4 May, Gaida says. Her NGO and a Libyan one, the Observatory on Gender in Crisis, had arranged for one of the women freed by Hussein to be present.

Defying the taboos of Libyan society, she stood up and in appalling detail told her story.

"She was one of three sisters who, in the early stages of the revolution, had put an anti-Gaddafi post on Facebook," says Gaida. "They were arrested. For nine months, she was sexually tortured with everything you can imagine. When you say rape you think of a man violating a woman. But this was far, far worse."

By the time the young woman had finished her account, the Libyan minister of justice and several other men present were in tears. "It was then that she turned to the minister and asked him: 'What will you do for us?'", Gaida recalls. "The minister stood up and said: 'You and your sisters are the pearls in the crown of the new Libya'."

The idea that the survivors of rape might be thought of as anything but a source of disgrace was a drastic break with the past, and helped the bill being pushed by the Observatory on Gender in Crisis to get the government's backing.

"The main problem once the law has been passed will still be a cultural one," says Atigha. "We know many victims prefer to keep what happened a secret. One thing we want to do is to ensure cases are dealt with by female investigating magistrates."
 

Alan Lambert (97)
Friday July 5, 2013, 4:24 pm
Maybe rape should be a war crime no matter where it happens...
 

JL A. (276)
Friday July 5, 2013, 5:13 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Alan because you have done so within the last day.
 

Glenn Byrnes (192)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 12:54 am
Noted.
 

Kerrie G. (135)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 6:03 am
Noted, thanks.
 

JL A. (276)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 6:49 am
You are welcome Kerrie
 

Bee S. (208)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 8:38 am
noted with Thanks , JL A.
 

JL A. (276)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 8:45 am
You are welcome Bee
 

Angelika R. (144)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 9:00 am
well, it IS a war crime, good step if Libya commits to it now.
 

Barbara K. (75)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 1:25 pm
I agree. I think it is a war crime and should be treated like a war crime, everywhere.
 

James Maynard (68)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 1:28 pm
Kudos to Libya for taking this bold step.
Rape should definitely be listed as a war
crime.
 

JL A. (276)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 1:54 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Barbara or James because you have done so within the last day.
 

Lois Jordan (58)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 2:12 pm
Thanks, JL. What good news! So nice to see other countries taking the lead in defense of women. Here is something that should be spread worldwide, and enforced.
 

Kit B. (276)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 3:02 pm

The question is not that rape should be a war crime but why hasn't it been war crime? Will the US support this? If not will we demand that our government step up and do the right thing?
 

Kit B. (276)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 3:05 pm

Thanks Alan L for that in-depth read about Gaddafi's own hell on earth, I doubt he ever questioned his absolute right to inflict that cruel torture on women. He was tortured before he died at the hands of the rebels, what goes around....
 

Paulett Simunich (0)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 3:23 pm
Thanks JL A......What a step forward for Libya......hope that surrounding countries decide to step forward also.
 

JL A. (276)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 3:30 pm
You are welcome Lois and Paulett.
You cannot currently send a star to Lois or Kit because you have done so within the last day.
 

Joanne Dixon (40)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 3:45 pm
It's definitely about time. How interesting that it is Libya which has stepped up first.
 

JL A. (276)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 4:21 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Joanne because you have done so within the last day.
 

Gloria H. (88)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 5:04 pm
Sure wish the US would consider rape of women SERVING in the armed forces a war crime!! Any man convicted of it should not only be kicked out, but should be sentenced to the max, sued by the victim for emotional and physical damages, required to register as a sex offender, and NOT get any benefits! Did I leave anything out?
 

Rose NoFWDSPLZ (283)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 5:50 pm
RAPE IS A CRIME AND IT HAPPENS EVERYDAY TO WOMEN FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD
CUT THEIR DICKS OFF IF THEY ARE EVER CAUGHT
 

Birgit W. (152)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 6:48 pm
Bravo. I am more than surprised that Libya is standing up to protect their women. It is about time. What about the rest of our world? Out world is just too evil.
 

Past Member (0)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 7:43 pm
Go Rose Cheers JLA
 

JL A. (276)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 7:53 pm
Cheers David.
You cannot currently send a star to Birgit because you have done so within the last day.
 

Frances Darcy (225)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 2:22 am
noted thanks
 

Emma S. (228)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 3:18 am
Thanks, JL. Astonishing that it's not already a war crime.
 

Helen Porter (40)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 4:30 am
War should be a crime.

Remember the slogan of my time,
Make Love not War

Rape is war on women.
 

Gloria picchetti (300)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 4:49 am
It's a good idea as long as it's carried out.
 

Sharon W. (4)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 6:02 am
Very good!
@Zee Kallah: Hm, uprisings against an undemocratic president are war, but what are you going to do? Grit your teeth and taking, hoping that it gets better?
 

JL A. (276)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 7:49 am
You cannot currently send a star to Zee or Sharon because you have done so within the last day.
 

Monica T. (294)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 9:44 am
Noted... Thanks for posting this.
 

Lloyd H. (46)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 9:47 am
OK, I am confused! Granted that rape during war has been considered "collateral damage suffered only by women" and "not a concern of the International community" for most of the history of the world, even the Old Testament justifies it by making women 'booty of war' taken as slaves. And at the end of WW II at Nuremberg not a single Nazi was even charged with rape but at the same time the War Crimes Tribunal in Tokyo did charge and convict Japanese Officers with "failure to prevent rape". Now as of June 1995, thanks to Nusrela Sivac who was raped during the Bosnian War/Conflict, the Geneva Conventions list rape as a War Crime and a Crime Against Humanity. So I guess that I am to assume that Libya is not a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and needs its own law. Which does not make sense as Bosnia was not signatory but those who committed rape there are still going to be prosecuted.
Also the Geneva Conventions cover 'War" and "armed conflicts", although God alone knows what lawyers can do with the wording to get the guilty off.
 

JL A. (276)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 9:54 am
You are welcome Monica. Can anyone help clarify the questions Lloyd raises?
You cannot currently send a star to LLOYD because you have done so within the last day.
 

Lona Goudswaard (77)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 12:49 pm
Noted. Very good and rather exceptional news as it comes from an Islamic country. This will have an affect on so many levels...
 

JL A. (276)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 12:52 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Lona because you have done so within the last day.
 

John De Avalon (35)
Monday July 8, 2013, 6:12 am
A very brave lady to give her testimony...I hope it makes a difference, to protect women in future and achieve justice for those who have been harmed.
 

Jo S. (532)
Monday July 8, 2013, 4:08 pm
Noted & shared.
Very good step, I hope it becomes a reality, very brave woman!
Thanks JL
 

JL A. (276)
Monday July 8, 2013, 4:10 pm
You are welcome Joanne.
You cannot currently send a star to Joanne because you have done so within the last day.
 

Sergio Padilla (62)
Friday July 12, 2013, 8:50 pm
Thanks
 

JL A. (276)
Friday July 12, 2013, 8:51 pm
You are welcome Sergio
 

Julie E. (371)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 1:22 am
Praise these women for standing up for themselves. The fear in them must have been great but they did it. Hopefully more and more women will speak up.
 

JL A. (276)
Saturday July 13, 2013, 7:18 am
You cannot currently send a star to Julie because you have done so within the last day.
 

Klaus Peters (13)
Friday July 19, 2013, 7:54 am
War crimes? That is only for the loosers. "Winners never do anything wrong, no matter what." They just take the spoils of war and it becomes legal. I saw it at the end in WW2 as a kid in Germany. What the Allies did was more horrible what one can imagine, to women and children. One never forgets, "lest forget" is only for the winners to cover up their crimes. They celebrate every year on anniversaries to cover up their crimes to look like war heroes. Luckily they are a dieing culture, especially since Vietnam.
At least the muslims do it to each other, why interfere?
Wargames will be wargames, history will never change. It is played by a few to prove their EGO.
 

Klaus Peters (13)
Friday July 19, 2013, 7:57 am
Maybe I should have taped my mouth too?
 
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