United Nations A/hrc/19/68

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Sexual Violence

        1. Introduction

  1. In its first report the Commission recorded a number of rape allegations.741 Due to restrictions on movement in the first phase of the Commission, it was able to speak with only one direct victim of rape despite the substantial number of allegations circulating amongst interlocutors and in the media.742 In the second phase of the Commission’s work, more than 50 interviews were conducted with male and female victims and witnesses in relation to rape or sexual violence, primarily in Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata, Al Zawiyah, Zowara, and the Nafusa Mountains. Of the victims interviewed, seven reported being abducted and assaulted or assaulted in their homes, and 14 were victims of sexual violence in detention centres. Another 30 interviews were conducted with doctors, psychologists, lawyers and individuals who had direct contact with victims or perpetrators. Five interviews were conducted with alleged perpetrators themselves. The allegations received by the Commission were levelled primarily against Qadhafi forces or loyalists, with a small number of incidents implicating thuwar forces.

  2. The Commission recognized the difficulties in collecting evidence in cases of sexual violence in Libya, due to cultural, social, and religious beliefs surrounding marriage and sexuality. This includes a victim’s understandable reluctance to disclose information due to the trauma, shame and stigma linked to sexual assault. Libyan law and its application discriminate against female victims. Young women who have been raped or considered to have brought dishonour to the family can be imprisoned in “social rehabilitation facilities.”743 The fact that Libyan criminal law punishes sexual relations outside a lawful marriage by flogging,744 as well as by imprisonment for adultery or pregnancy outside marriage,745 increases the reluctance of victims to report rape. According to Libyan legislation, if a man rapes a women, he is expected to marry his victim to “save her honour.”746 The entire honour of the family is tarnished if a girl or unmarried woman loses her virginity outside of marriage. Some female victims of rape have been ostracized, divorced, disowned, forced to flee the country, have committed suicide, and some have allegedly been killed by their relatives because of the shame and dishonour that rape brings to the family and even the tribe.747 The silence surrounding rape existed before the conflict as well. In several conservative areas of Libya, female victims have been pressured or threatened by their community to remain silent about rape, as it is considered shameful for the community not to have been able to protect its own women.748

  3. It was not only difficult to find victims who were willing to be interviewed, but it was also difficult to find reliable statistics of victims of sexual violence. Local sources who have assisted victims give varying figures.749

  4. The Commission recognized that many organizations, individuals and media have spoken with victims about the allegations of sexual violence in Libya during the conflict. During its investigations, the Commission obtained information from local and international NGOs and the report includes this information. Some of those victims who did speak out suffered further trauma and shame from their communities when their stories became public.750 Fear of reprisals coupled with a lack of widespread social services, psychological and general support for victims has also contributed to victims’ reluctance to report about sexual violence. The Commission was acutely aware of the potential for retraumatizing victims through additional interviews.

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