Condition Critical: Voices From the War in Congo -Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) : An international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.

21 April 2010

Stephen M. Apatow
Founder, Director of Research & Development
Humanitarian Resource Institute (UN:NGO:DESA)
Humanitarian University Consortium Graduate Studies
Center for Medicine, Veterinary Medicine & Law
Phone: 203-668-0282
Email: s.m.apatow@humanitarian.net
Internet: www.humanitarian.net

Humanitarian Intervention Initiative (H-II)
Url: www.unarts.org/H-II

H-II: Int. Response - Rape as a Weapon of War - Crimes Against Humanity
By: Stephen Michael Apatow, Founder of Humanitarian Resource Institute and the United Nations Arts Initiative. [1]  
The international community turned it's back on "Crimes Against Humanity" in the context of endemic "Rape as a Weapon of War" in DR Congo and Darfur. [2,3]

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)—sometimes referred to as the ‘African World War’—has devastated the country since its onset in 1998. The world’s deadliest conflict since World War II, it has killed 5.4 million people and displaced a million more. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003 and again in 2008, fighting has been ongoing throughout the east, and the prevalence of rape in this region has been described as the worst in the world. [4]

A short distance to the north, the Darfur crisis has been described as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today. By the end of 2004, there were an estimated two million people affected by continued armed conflict and violence against civilians." [5]  The Lancet notes conflict dynamics such as changing displacement and causes of deaths estimated the excess number of deaths to be approximately 300,000.  Although violence was the main cause of death during 2004, diseases have been the cause of most deaths since 2005, with displaced populations being the most susceptible. Any reduction in humanitarian assistance could lead to worsening mortality rates, as was the case between mid 2006 and mid 2007. [6]  In 2007, report on the crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan  identified rape as a systematic weapon of ethnic cleansing being used by government-backed Janjaweed militiamen. [7]

Crimes Against Humanity

"Crimes against humanity, as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum, "are particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings. They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. Murder; extermination; torture; rape and political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice." [8]

It is clear that the systemic use of "Rape as a Weapon of War" in DR Congo and Darfur meet the threshold of crimes against humanity.

Following the H-II: Humanitarian Intervention Initiative appeal on 16 April 2010, leaders across the globe have increased their focus on this crisis, with Canadian Governor General Michaelle Jean calling the international community to action:

Governor General Michaelle Jean received a standing ovation from women when she reminded lawmakers in the Congo that the United Nations dubs the practices in the country a “crime against humanity.” Jean devoted the entire speech to women’s rights on Monday. Congo is home to a conflict where gang-rape is a weapon of war. --  GG Speaks in Congo: 580 CFRA News, 19 April 2010. [9]

In a speech attended by the country's president, cabinet ministers, two brigadiers-general of the Congolese national army, and Canadian peacekeepers in Congo, Jean spoke of sexual violence "of unimaginable horror" perpetrated on women and children that is "reaching endemic proportions." Pointing to hotspots in the country's violent eastern region – where she travels Tuesday – Jean said "in certain cases, this consists of serious violations of international humanitarian law, meaning `crimes against humanity.'" She was citing language directly used by the United Nations...

"She characterized what's happening in the east of the country as a crime against humanity which could be pursued nationally under national laws or prosecuted before the International Court of Justice, if you can find and extradite the perpetrators," said Canadian jurist Louise Otis, an international legal adviser to the UN. -- Michaëlle Jean urges Congo to stop rape: Governor General calls on leaders to ensure punishment for 'crime against humanity'. The Star, Ottawa Bureau. 20 April 2010. [10]


1. Stephen Michael Apatow, Founder of Humanitarian Resource Institute and the United Nations Arts Initiative.  Url: http://www.apatow.org
2. H-II: Darfur: Rape as a Weapon of War - 17 Fold Increase - Crimes Against Humanity: Humanitarian Resource Institute, 16 April 2010. Url: http://www.unarts.org/news/aiie_darfur4162010.html
3. Rapes 'surge' in DR Congo: Aljazeera, 15 April 2010. Url: http://english.aljazeera.net//news/africa/2010/04/201041595648701631.html
4. Legacy of War: An Epidemic of Sexual Violence in DRC: UNFPA, 26 November 2008. Url: http://www.unfpa.org/public/News/pid/1399
5. Darfur: One Year On: World Health Organization, 2004.  Url: http://www.emro.who.int/sudan/pdf/Darfur%20report%202004.pdf
6. Patterns of mortality rates in Darfur conflict: The Lancet, Volume 375, Issue 9711, Pages 294 - 300, 23 January 2010. Abstract (article is made available free of charge). Url: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2809%2961967-X/abstract
7. Janjaweed Using Rape as 'Integral' Weapon in Darfur, Aid Group Says: The Washington Post, 3 July 2007. Url: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/02/AR2007070201627.html
8. As quoted by Guy Horton in Dying Alive - A Legal Assessment of Human Rights Violations in Burma April 2005, co-Funded by The Netherlands Ministry for Development Co-Operation. See section "12.52 Crimes against humanity", Page 201. He references RSICC/C, Vol. 1 p. 360. Url: http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs3/Horton-2005.pdf
9. GG Speaks in Congo: 580 CFRA News, 19 April 2010. 
Url: http://www.cfra.com/?cat=3&nid=72606

10. Michaëlle Jean urges Congo to stop rape: Governor General calls on leaders to ensure punishment for 'crime against humanity'. The Star, Ottawa Bureau. 20 April 2010. Url: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/797772--michaelle-jean-urges-congo-to-stop-rape


H-II: Humanitarian Intervention Initiative

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