Ukraine-Russia: New international convention to stop rape being used in war needed, minister says

Foreign Office minister Vicky Ford told MPs the UK was working with international partners to strengthen the response to tackling sexual violence in conflict and “all options are on the table”.

Her comments came during an urgent question in the Commons on reports of sexual violence by Russian troops, with Labor calling for a tribunal.

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Ms Ford said: “We are working through the ICC [International Criminal Court] Because we believe that is the best way to take people to court for war crimes. Setting up a new body could take many years and as I said, we have seen from the experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo that the ICC can be effective in holding people to account.

People take part in a solidarity march in London for Ukraine, following the Russian invasion.

“But it is incredibly important that the evidence is gathered, which is why we are funding them now and why we are supporting other organisations.

“However, we do believe that a new convention is needed or a new international agreement is needed and that it is one of our key priorities for this year, and it was a key priority for this year even before this hideous war started.”

Ms Ford’s comments were echoed by Tory MP Anthony Mangnall, who is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.

He said: “Can the minister report that all crimes of sexual violence will be documented and prosecuted, and where this will take place?

“Many of us who have been supportive of the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative have been calling for a new independent international body to investigate sexual violence in conflict, wherever it takes place – a body that will support survivors, document crimes and prosecute perpetrators working with local courts.

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“Will the minister now accept that that is needed now, not in six months, not in 12 months, but now with our global leadership and determination?”

Ms Ford told MPs the UK Government was working with its international partners on a response.

She said: “The UK continues to act decisively with its allies to punish the [Vladimir] Putin regime post-unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. And we will do all we can to bring the perpetrators of war crimes, including sexual violence, to justice.”

Shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Doughty condemned “utterly horrific and utterly heinous” reports of rape and sexual violence in Ukraine.

The Labor MP called on the Government to back his party’s call for a special tribunal to prosecute a crime of aggression against Ukraine.

“Every part of this House will condemn these appalling crimes, but condemnation is not enough,” he said.

“We need accountability, and we need justice to be done – [we need] Putin and his cronies, and all of those breaking international laws of war in his name, to face the full force of the law for the crimes and atrocities they are no doubt committing.”

Ms Ford said the Government would support the International Criminal Court investigation into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but suggested Labour’s suggestion of a specific tribunal could take “many years”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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