Anyone involved in sexual violence in times of armed conflict will not receive a U.S. visa, says Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry made the announcement during a February 25 public discussion at the State Department on preventing sexual violence in conflict situations.
“No one, and I mean no one at the highest level of military or governance, who has presided over or engaged in or knew of or conducted these kinds of attacks is ever going to receive a visa to travel into the United States of America from this day forward,” Kerry said. Every U.S. Embassy and post around the world, he said, will be alerted to this injunction and report incidents of sexual violence in conflict situations.
“There has to be a price attached” to sexual violence, Kerry said, and denying visas to perpetrators of sexual violence is “one of the things we need to do.”
The State Department event brought together United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague, Catherine M. Russell, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, Anne C. Richard, U.S. assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, and U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura to discuss ways to end what Kerry described as the “depravity and the extraordinary violence of rape as a tool of war.”
The extent of war zone rape has been documented around the world, according to Hague. Preventing that type of violence, he said, is “a crucial moral cause of our times” as well as “a fundamental part of conflict prevention.”
To reinforce global commitment to ending wartime sexual violence, Hague said he will host a global summit on the issue in London this June. The meeting, he said, “will be like no summit ever before.”
The summit, Hague said, “is going to go on around the clock, around the world. It is going to be open to the public. It is going to communicate digitally with people in every continent of the world. We are going to involve militaries, judiciaries.” Governments, Hague said, will be asked to take practical steps to end sexual violence, such as deploying teams of experts to areas that help to gather evidence and make sure prosecutions can take place.
Bangura said 140 countries have signed a U.N. declaration on ending sexual violence. The global legal framework is in place, she said, and the challenge now is how to ensure that governments take responsibility to implement the U.N. agreement. She also cited the stigma attached to victims of sexual violence and “a culture of silence” in many societies. “There’s a reluctance for people to report and to deal with it if they don’t have the support,” Bangura said.
Russell said one of the biggest challenges in ending wartime sexual violence is making sure people understand that there will be consequences for this crime. She cited the effectiveness of “mobile courts” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where rape has been especially prevalent during armed conflicts.
“For these DRC cases,” Russell said, “we have judges or Congolese prosecutors, judges who go out and they travel around, and they hear the cases in the communities. It takes two weeks for a case to be heard, and justice is meted out immediately. People see the justice happen in front of them. People who have committed these cases, who never believed they would be prosecuted, are prosecuted.”
“That sort of thing makes a difference,” Russell said, by building both a judicial infrastructure and public trust in the judicial system.
Acknowledging that public attitudes about sexual violence may be hard to change in some societies, Kerry said the challenge is not insurmountable.
“The way we will make a difference on this issue is, frankly, by heeding the example of people who’ve gone before us who broke the back of slavery and other oppressive acts that were being applied to the life of people in various times in history,” Kerry said. People need “to take risks as a matter of moral conscience in order to be able to make the difference,” he said.
Source: U.S Department of State