On December 1, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that a team of 70 experts is ready to deploy to Syria and the surrounding countries on a mission to gather evidence of the use of rape and gender violence in conflict. The team is made up of people from a variety of fields, including doctors, lawyers, forensic experts and psychologists. Part of their mission will be to build the capacity of organizations on the ground to support survivors and to gather forensic and medical evidence of rape.
Widespread cases of gender violence, including cases of mass rape, have been reported since the beginning of the conflict in Syria. The Women’s Media Center Women Under Siege Project has currently documented 124 reported cases on their crowdsourced map.
Foreign Secretary Hague has been working to bring attention and action to the issue of stopping rape in conflict with his Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative and his ongoing efforts to urge other countries to take similar actions.
This announcement came only two days before a statement from the United Nations indicating their intention to withdraw non-essential staff from Syria. They have also cancelled all missions to the country and have suspended all of their in-country activities. The UN deploys more than 1,000 national and international staff in Syria, and it is expected that this is the final step before a full evacuation from the country.
Refer Syria to International Criminal Court: France, International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, 7 September 2012.
Foreign Secretary discusses Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, Foreign Commonwealth Office, 2 December 2012.
Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, Foreign Commonwealth Office.
UN to withdraw non-essential staff from Syria, The Guardian, 3 December 2012.
Rape is shredding Syria's social fabric, CNN, 5 December 2012.