Statement by H. E. Mr. Urmas Paet, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia at the side-event "Enhancing Accountability for Sexual Violence in Conflict"
Distinguished Panellists, Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to
welcome you all to the Panel Discussion on Enhancing Accountability for Sexual
Violence in Conflict.
Estonia is dedicated
to protecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms both in
Estonia and in international forums.
Furthermore, we are of the opinion that fighting sexual violence in
conflict should become a high priority for the international community as
a whole, as both sexual violence and the threat of sexual violence continue to
be employed as a weapon of war.
Estonia was honored to
join the declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict initiated
primarily by my distinguished colleague H.E. Mr. William Hague. Estonia agrees
entirely with the principles set forth in the declaration and we were glad to
see the role of the International Criminal Court and other ad hoc tribunals
As a member of the
Human Rights Council, one of our priorities has been to focus particularly on
the rights of women and children, gender perspective in conflict settlement,
and the fight against impunity. Estonia is committed to working proactively
towards the fulfillment of this mandate and is actively engaged in the Council
deliberations on accountability for serious violations of human rights and
other atrocities. This includes, of course, the crimes of rape and sexual violence.
often constitute the majority of victims in armed conflict and women and
children are particularly vulnerable. The Rome Statute, the founding treaty of
the ICC, built upon the recognition of sexual violence as a serious international
crime by the ad hoc tribunals, expands the scope of sexual violence-based
crimes in international law. The Statute acknowledges that these crimes can be
committed against both men and women. It is important that this gender
sensitivity is translated into national prosecutions; to ensure that national
proceedings take into account the gender dimension of atrocity crimes to the
same extent as the Rome Statute. Estonia has ratified the Rome Statute and
incorporated it into its legislation, thus acknowledging sexual and gender
based crimes to the same extent.
A more robust system
of accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence and rape will discourage
the continued use of these crimes as a weapon of war. In the prevention of atrocity crimes,
including sexual violence in conflicts, Estonia acknowledges that it is
the primary duty of every state to exercise criminal jurisdiction over those
responsible for these crimes. Each State can undertake initiatives to ensure
that their national laws fully incorporate the Rome Statute crimes and thus achieve
the ability to prosecute these heinous crimes. Only universal ratification of the Rome
Statute can ensure accountability for atrocity crimes including sexual violence
in conflicts, wherever they are being committed. Unfortunately, national
investigations and prosecutions of atrocity crimes remain rare. So while the
ICC is a court of last resort, it is an essential institution for those
situations where national jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to act.
For us, supporting the
work and aims of the ICC and preventing atrocity crimes are a priority. Estonia
firmly believes that the ICC is, however, not only about punishing perpetrators
but also about empowering victims of atrocity crimes. Allow me to note, that Estonia confirms its commitment
to ending impunity and fighting sexual violence also through its financial
contributions in this field. In 2013 Estonia has contributed already
financially to a UNICEF project in Central African Republic for prevention and
response to gender-based violence and to UNHCR for victims of displacement as
well as the activities of the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special
Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
In replenishing the
Trust Fund for Victims established under the Rome Statute, Estonia has paid
special attention to the needs of victims of sexual violence who are very often
stigmatized by their own communities. The Fund has supported important work in
countries where the court is conducting investigations to alleviate the
suffering of victims. Among other activities, it is providing assistance to the
victims of rape and to children born as a result of rapes.
The Trust Fund for
Victims is currently dependent upon voluntary donations in order to effectively
fulfill its mandate and Estonia welcomes voluntary donations to the Fund.
Estonia has shown its support to this issue by contributing financially to the
Trust Fund and continues to show its support also this year by contributing the
amount of 50 000 EUR to the Team of Experts on Rule of Law and Sexual
Violence in Conflict.
In this regard, while
we work towards increasing accountability and preventing the continued use of
rape and sexual violence in conflicts, we can in some small measure help to
alleviate the pain of those who have suffered from these heinous crimes.
you for your attention!