Welcoming the recent arrests of two men long sought for their roles in the Balkans conflicts and the Rwandan genocide, a top United Nations official today stressed the need to ensure that the crimes of sexual violence they both stand accused of are exposed in the legal process under way.
Ratko Mladiæ was apprehended last week in Serbia after evading capture for almost 16 years, while Bernard Munyagishari was arrested in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, said that the indictments of the two men show that the fight against impunity for crimes of conflict-related sexual violence continues to yield results.
“In most media reports on their respective apprehension, however, sexual violence used as a tactic or weapon of war is repeatedly neglected from being mentioned,” she said in a statement.
Mr. Mladiæ, the war-time leader of the Bosnian Serb forces, is awaiting transfer to The Hague, where he will stand trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
He is charged with 15 counts that include the murder of close to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995. In the indictment, sexual abuse or sexual violence is mentioned five times.
Mr. Munyagishari, the former head of the Interahamwe Hutu militia for the city of Gisenyi in western Rwanda, is charged with five counts that include genocide, and rape as a crime against humanity, during the slaughter of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus that took place in little more than three months beginning in April 1994.
He is awaiting transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is based in Arusha, Tanzania.
“It is crucial that the terrible acts of sexual violence they both stand accused of are exposed in the legal process currently under way,” stated Ms. Wallström.
“Only by explicitly bringing these horrible deeds into the open can we help to break history's greatest silence.”