Combating War Crimes
Published in The Ploughshares Monitor Volume 40 Issue 1 Spring 2019
“Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, war crimes. Denis Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others. Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.” – The Nobel Foundation
My name is Denis Mukwege. I come from one of the richest countries on the planet. Yet the people of my country are among the poorest of the world. The troubling reality is that the abundance of our natural resources—gold, coltan, cobalt and other strategic minerals—is the root cause of war, extreme violence and abject poverty. We love nice cars, jewellery and gadgets. I have a smartphone myself. These items contain minerals found in our country. Often mined in inhuman conditions by young children, victims of intimidation and sexual violence. When you drive your electric car; when you use your smartphone or admire your jewellery, take a minute to reflect on the human cost of manufacturing these objects.
With this Nobel Peace Prize, I call on the world to be a witness and I urge you to join us in order to put an end to this suffering that shames our common humanity. The people of my country desperately need peace.
The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to us today will be of value only if it leads to concrete change in the lives of victims of sexual violence all over the world and the restoration of peace in our countries. So, what can we do? What can you do?
First, it is incumbent upon all of us to act in this direction. Taking action is a choice. Taking action means saying ‘no’ to indifference. If there is a war to be waged, it is the war against the indifference which is eating away at our societies.
Second, we are all indebted to these women and their loved-ones and we must all take ownership of this fight; including states by ceasing to welcome leaders who have tolerated, or worse, used sexual violence to take power. States must stop welcoming them by rolling out the red carpet, and instead draw a red line against the use of rape as a weapon of war. This red line would consist of imposing economic and political sanctions on these leaders and taking them to court.
Third, we must acknowledge the suffering of the survivors of all acts of violence against women in armed conflicts and support their holistic recovery process. I insist on reparations: the measures that give survivors compensation and satisfaction and enable them to start a new life. It is a human right. I call on States to support the initiative to create a Global Fund for reparations for victims of sexual violence in armed conflicts.
Fourth, on behalf of all widows, all widowers and orphans of the massacres committed in the DRC and all Congolese in love with peace, I call on the international community to finally consider the “Mapping Project report” [conducted by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “which describes no fewer than 617 war crimes and crimes against humanity and perhaps even crimes of genocide”] and its recommendations.
May justice prevail.
Today is a special day for all Iraqis, not only because I am the first Iraqi to win the Nobel Peace Prize. It is also the day when we celebrate the victory of liberating Iraqi territory from the terrorist organization of ISIS. The Iraqis from the North to the South united their forces and fought a long battle on behalf of the world against this extremist terrorist organization. This unity gave us strength. We also need to unite our efforts to investigate the crimes of ISIS and prosecute those who welcomed, helped and joined them to control vast areas in Iraq. There should be no place for terrorism and extremist ideas in post-ISIS Iraq; we must join forces in building our country; we must contribute together to achieve security, stability and prosperity for the benefit of all Iraqis.
In the 21st century, in the age of globalization and human rights, more than 6,500 Yazidi children and women became captive and were sold, bought, and sexually and psychologically abused. Despite our daily appeals since 2014, the fate of more than 3,000 children and women in the grip of ISIS is still unknown. Young girls at the prime of life are sold, bought, held captive and raped every day.
For almost four years, I have been travelling around the world to tell my story and that of my community and other vulnerable communities, without having achieved any justice. The perpetrators of sexual violence against Yazidi and other women and girls are yet to be prosecuted for these crimes. If justice is not done, this genocide will be repeated against us and against other vulnerable communities. Justice is the only way to achieve peace and co-existence among the various components of Iraq. If we do not want to repeat cases of rape and captivity against women, we must hold to account those who have used sexual violence as a weapon to commit crimes against women and girls.
We celebrate these days the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which aims at preventing genocides and calls for the prosecution of their perpetrators. My community has been subjected to genocide for more than four years. The international community did nothing to deter it nor to stop it. It did not bring the perpetrators to justice. Other vulnerable communities have been subjected to ethnic cleansing, racism and identity change in plain sight of the international community.
The protection of the Yazidis and all vulnerable communities around the world is the responsibility of the international community and international institutions in charge of defending human rights, the protection of minorities, the protection of the rights of women and children, especially in areas where conflicts and internal wars take place.
Let us all unite to fight injustice and oppression. Let us raise our voices together and say: No to violence, yes to peace, no to slavery, yes to freedom, no to racial discrimination, yes to equality and to human rights for all. No to exploiting women and children, yes to providing a decent and independent life to them, no to impunity for criminals, yes to holding criminals accountable and to achieving justice.
Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2018
Both lectures were delivered in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 2018. They have been abridged for publication here. For the complete lectures, go to www.nobelprize.org.