The United Nations official leading efforts against sexual violence in conflict
today called for greater support for survivors of sexual abuse in Sierra Leone,
saying they needed access to justice and assistance to reintegrate into society.
“Additional resources are also required to strengthen the capacity of the
judicial system in order to address the issue of sexual violence,” said Margot
Wallström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in
Conflict, who is visiting to the West African country where sexual violence was
widespread during a decade-long bloody conflict in the 1990s.
She underscored the need to prevent sexual violence as the country prepares for
next year’s presidential and legislative elections.
“Preventing sexual violence is particularly important as Sierra Leone is drawing
closer to elections, a period during which sexual violence is often used against
political opponents, especially in post-conflict situations.
“I call on all people in positions of influence in Sierra Leone to speak up
against the use of sexual violence as a tool of political intimidation and to do
their utmost to put in place measures to prevent sexual violence from being
employed to this effect,” said Ms. Wallström.
She said that she understood that Sierra Leoneans and their Government wanted to
look to the future and not dwell on the past, but the crime of sexual violence
must not be forgotten.
“Only a country thoroughly addressing the wrongdoings of the past can build a
solid foundation for a successful and sustainable future. Additional resources
are also required to strengthen the capacity of the judicial system in order to
address the issue of sexual violence,” she added.
She held discussions with the UN Country Team in Sierra Leone, as well as with
representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), caregivers, survivors
of sexual violence, and the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the police.
Ms. Wallström also met with the country’s Solicitor General, the Chief Justice,
the Minister and Deputy Minister of Gender Affairs and the Executive
Representative of the Secretary-General, Michael von der Schulenburg, who is the
head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Mission in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL).
She also visited a reparations project for victims of sexual violence in the
city of Makeni, where she spoke with various people dealing with the issue.