Sexual Violence in Conflict debate

14th February 2013

Brooks Newmark welcomes the UK’s lead in issues relating to preventing sexual violence in conflict.

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Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): I would like to thank you, Mr Speaker, for indulging me in my request. I was trying to be in two debates at once. I spoke in the eating disorders debate elsewhere and unfortunately the winding-up speeches took a bit longer than I thought.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood) on securing this important debate, which I was happy to co-sponsor. She knows the enormous interest I take in this issue, and not only in the international context; I have also spoken about domestic violence in this country, and as I have said before, if men knew the odds of getting caught and prosecuted—the prosecution rate is 6%, so they have a 94% chance of getting away with it—they would probably go for it. The international statistics are even more dramatic. In the former Yugoslavia, men have a 1:20,000 chance of being prosecuted, and in Rwanda, where I have spent the past seven years travelling, the figure is 1:50,000. That is a disgrace, and the Foreign Secretary is absolutely right to take a lead in this important initiative.

As I have seen in Rwanda, the by-product of rape as a weapon of war are the orphans who live on after the conflict, infected with AIDS. I have spent time over the past seven years working with such children in a school in Kigali. Their mothers have been killed off by AIDS, but the children live on with the condition; they effectively have a time bomb within their bodies. They could die at any time. It is important to consider not only rape itself. We must investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of rape, but we must also think about what happens afterwards. We need to think about the children who were born as a result of rape, many of whom have AIDS. Perhaps through the International Development Secretary of State, we can see what we can do to give them more support.

I also want to pay tribute to the International Commission on Missing Persons, which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary knows. I am spending a huge amount of time working on our taking a lead in supporting the excellent work of the commission in Bosnia over the past 15-plus years. It has done great work, and it is important that the UK should take the lead in securing a future for it. Finally, I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s international protocol to investigate and prosecute sexual violence against women, because prosecution is extremely important.

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Earlier intervention in the same debate

Mr Newmark: I will be quick.

I would draw my hon. Friend’s attention to the fact that not only the rape itself is ghastly, but the conviction and prosecution rates. In the field where he fought, only one in 20,000 perpetrators of those crimes were prosecuted.

Will he therefore join me in welcoming the international protocol proposed by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, which will ensure prosecution and investigation?

Bob Stewart: I thank my hon. Friend—that was quick. Of course, I agree with him. I have given evidence in five trials. I am thrilled that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has brought charges against people for rape as a crime against humanity, and secured convictions. I am fully aware that not even one in every 100 people guilty of such crimes in Bosnia have been brought to justice.

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