Angelina Jolie (R) listens to Syrian refugees in a military camp on the Jordan-Syria border on June 18, 2013
Picture made available by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) shows US actress Angelina Jolie (R) listening to Syrian refugees in a Jordanian military camp based the the Jordan-Syria border on June 18, 2013. Jolie on Monday criticized UN Security Council powers for their lack of action over wartime rapes, invoking Syria and other conflicts in a surprise speech to the body. © O. Laban-Mattei - UNHCR/AFP/File
Angelina Jolie (R) listens to Syrian refugees in a military camp on the Jordan-Syria border on June 18, 2013
AFP
Last updated: June 24, 2013

Jolie urges UN Security Council to act on war rapes

Screen star Angelina Jolie on Monday criticized UN Security Council powers for their lack of action over wartime rapes, invoking Syria and other conflicts in a surprise speech to the body.

Ambassadors from Russia, China, the United States, France and Britain -- bitterly divided over the Syria war -- listened as Jolie chided them for failing to take seriously the hundreds of thousands of victims of sexual attacks in conflict.

"The world has yet to take up war zone rape as a serious priority," the actress said, at a meeting organized by Britain as president of the council for June.

Jolie, getting into top gear lobbying again after undergoing a double mastectomy operation, appeared before the council after visiting refugee camps for Syrians in Jordan last week.

Her presence was announced just before the meeting.

She told the diplomats of how she had met a woman in Jordan who had been raped in Syria but was afraid to give her name because she feared she would be killed for speaking out.

On another trip she had met the mother of a five-year-old girl raped outside a police station in Goma in strife-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Both were "victims of a culture of impunity" because there have been so few prosecutions, Jolie told UN ambassadors and UN leader Ban Ki-moon. "That is the sad, upsetting and indeed shameful reality."

"I understand that there are many difficult things for the Security Council to agree on, but sexual violence in conflict should not be one of them," Jolie said.

"The UN Security Council must step in and provide leadership and assistance," she said.

"These crimes happen not because they are inherent to war but because the global community allows it."

"If the UN Security Council sets rape and sexual violence in conflict as a priority, it will become one and progress will be made. If you do not this horror will continue," Jolie said.

"Please do not let this issue fall when you leave this chamber," she pleaded.

The council adopted a resolution to condemn the use of sexual violence in conflict. Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said he would organize a new meeting on the topic at the UN General Assembly in September.

"The time has come for the world to take a strong and determined stand to make clear that the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war is not acceptable in a modern world," Hague told reporters.

The British minister said he wanted to change the "global attitude" to wartime rape.

He acknowledged it was "a big objective" but insisted the world had to "make clear that the idea that there is impunity for these crimes is shattered."

UN rights experts say there is growing evidence of widespread use of sexual violence against women, girls and boys in the Syria conflict.

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