Global Justice Center Blog
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 14, 2016
[NEW YORK, NY] – It is now two years since Boko Haram abducted nearly 300 Chibok Christian schoolgirls. The loud global rallying cry, which included Michelle Obama, to “Bring Back Our Girls”, has not stopped Boko Haram from targeting women and girls with heinous crimes including kidnappings, rapes, forced pregnancies, forced conversion, and murder by forced suicide.
The House of Lord's Select Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict published a report on March 22, 2016 titled, "Sexual Violence in Conflict: A War Crime," that includes strong language supporting the EU's "Anti-Helms Amendment" and cites to GJC. This report demonstrates strong UK support for the EU's leadership in divorcing itself from the US' Helms Amendment. You can read excerpts from the report below.
From the Summary of Recommendations:
57. Women and girls who are victims of war rape should have access to safe abortion services. We support the approach that has been adopted in this respect by the UK and the EU. We believe the current enforcement of the Helms Amendment by the US administration is contrary to international human rights law (IHRL) and undermines the protections of international humanitarian law (IHL). Where women who are victims of war rape have borne children as a result of that rape, we believe they should be able to access maternity services and receive continued financial and other support from their respective state. (Paragraph 217)
From the full report:
214. Access to abortion services was raised as an important requirement for women and girls who had become pregnant as a result of war rape. Abortion is illegal in a number of conflict-affected countries. We were told that, as a result, victims of war rape might have illegal or unsafe abortions. These operations endanger lives and put women at risk of further harms such as retraumatisation.312 Ms Rosy Cave, Head of the Conflict and Stabilisation Team in DfID, said that in Iraq “there are concerns about the number of illegal abortions that might be happening and the health of those individuals”.313 Additionally, we heard how the children of rape victims were often stigmatised and stateless,314 and “frequently cast out from or marginalised within their communities”.315 Those who raised the issue agreed that women and girls who became pregnant due to war rape must have access to safe abortion services.316 215. There is some disparity in the international community’s approach to this issue. The UK’s policy permits the provision of abortion services in line with the principles of international humanitarian law (IHL). This is set out in DfID’s June 2014 policy paper, Safe and unsafe abortion: The UK’s policy position on safe and unsafe abortion in developing countries. 317 This approach is consistent with United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2122, which notes the need for access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for women affected by armed conflict and post-conflict situations.318
216. In the US, however, the 1973 ‘Helms Amendment’ prevents US overseas aid being given to organisations that provide abortion services, including for women and girls raped during a conflict.319 The wording of the amendment states that no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion “as a method of family planning”. This term has not been defined, but it might imply that it excludes cases of rape or life endangerment.320 Consequently, there have been calls for the US to interpret the language differently and to overturn this policy.321 The EU’s 2016 budget was described as including the first ever ‘anti-Helms Amendment’, requiring that EU humanitarian aid be provided “in accordance with international humanitarian law”, and without “discrimination or adverse distinction”.322 In a reference to the Helms Amendment, the budget mandates that EU funds should “not be subject to restrictions imposed by other partner donors”.323 Furthermore, in its report on the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), the European Parliament urged “that women and girls have access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortions”,324 a similar view that was supported by Global Justice Center.325
217. Women and girls who are victims of war rape should have access to safe abortion services. We support the approach that has been adopted in this respect by the UK and the EU. We believe the current enforcement of the Helms Amendment by the US administration is contrary to international human rights law (IHRL) and undermines the protections of international humanitarian law (IHL). Where women who are victims of war rape have borne children as a result of that rape, we believe they should be able to access maternity services and receive continued financial and other support from their respective state.
When Terrorists Perpetrate Genocide: The Distinct and Independent Obligations of States and International Entities to Respond to Daesh’s Genocide
Daesh is perpetrating genocide of the Yazidi, Christian, and other minorities as acknowledged by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the EU Parliament, Iraq, and others. The 1948 Genocide Convention was passed to protect distinct values central to humanity: the right of protected groups to their continued existence and the right of all people to live in a world enriched by diversity and marked by tolerance. Genocide is defined as acts to destroy national, ethnic, racial or religious groups, as distinct entities. The joint attacks against Daesh in August 2014 to “avert potential genocide” of the Yazidi saved lives but did not stop Daesh from continuing to perpetrate genocide.
The international legal framework designed to keep the world free from genocide is distinct from that of other international laws and protects distinct values. Strategies to counter terrorism including, to prosecute and deny “safe havens” for terrorists, without more, do not fulfill the nonderogable obligations of states and international entities to stop genocide.
The Genocide Convention’s effectiveness in deterring genocide depends on states fulfilling their obligations to take “all possible measures” individually and collectively to prevent, suppress, and punish genocide. The failure of states and international organizations to address Daesh genocide crimes undermines the legitimacy of the Genocide Convention and the effectiveness of counter terrorism efforts.
Daesh Strategically and Intentionally Targets Yazidi Women and Girls for Heinous Crimes on Ideological Grounds
Daesh continues to commit heinous crimes against women and girls, and, to date, has done so with impunity. Victims and witnesses who have fled Daesh control consistently describe being subjected to attacks that aim to terrorize and silence the population. But even in the context of Daesh’s blanket persecutions against ethnic minorities, Daesh has singled out the Yazidi religious and ethnic minority, and most notability Yazidi women and children, for particularly brutal treatment.
Further, its state-building strategy requires subjugation of women and control over their reproductive capacity to guarantee future generations for the so-called Caliphate. These policies, strategies and practices lead to and provide a perceived justification for Daesh fighters’ carrying out the horrendous crimes against Yazidi women and girls detailed below.