28 Nov 2013

Hague to host global summit on war zone rape

When I went to the Congo with William Hague and Angelina Jolie last year, there were those who said the foreign secretary was more bothered about rubbing shoulders with a celebrity than promoting a cause which aides say is a defining issue of his career.

However, today in the Commons, Mr Hague tried to silence the doubters by launching an impassioned plea for the world to act on warzone rape, which he described as “a monstrosity of our age”.

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The Foreign Secretary told MPs he would never forget meeting a woman in a refugee camp in the Congo who said she’d been raped like an animal.  A team of 70 experts, including doctors and lawyers, are being sent to conflict zones to help victims, said Mr Hague.

And he announced that next year he and Ms Jolie will co-host a world summit to try and take practical measures to deal with an atrocity he’s likened to slavery.

Angelina Jolie was inspired to champion this cause after starring in a film about the Bosnian conflict. While there were 50,000 cases of rape in that conflict, there have been only 30 war crime convictions.

Mr Hague insisted that his campaign would result in practical action:

“It means real change on the ground in countries around the world where this happens, making sure prosecutions take place so that in future military commanders who give the order .. to use rape as a weapon of war know that they have a much higher chance of ending up in court.”

But in countries like the Congo, where criminals walk free because the jails have no doors or windows, the push for justice may be more laudable than achievable.

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