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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, A/68/297, 9 August 2013

IV. Vulnerable groups

D. Children

Conflict strategies

49. As noted by the Security Council (resolution 1820 (2008)) and others,[69] certain civilians may be targeted on the basis of their perceived or actual association with ethnic, religious or political groups. Such strategies infringe human dignity and are manifestly incompatible with the right to health. In certain circumstances, they may also qualify as crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes. For example, the use of gender-based violence as a strategy of conflict has been well documented.[70] Such violence can include incestuous rape and public rape, rape as a deliberate vector of HIV, camps specifically designed for forced impregnation of women, and premeditated rape as a tool of political repression.[71] Women and girls are common targets of sexual violence, although men and young boys may also be targeted with equal severity.[72] As the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has noted (see E/CN.4/2004/13) among others,[73] armed groups may also specifically target sex workers, sexual and ethnic minorities and other communities as a tool for “social cleansing” of “undesirable elements”. By treating civilians as objects of conflict, the physical and psychological impact of sexual violence may extend beyond immediate survivors and disempower whole communities.[74] Due to the stigma attached to sexual violence, survivors are often forced into silence and excluded from their communities.[75] The impact of sexual violence on the mental health of survivors, as well as their family and community may endure for generations.[76] Sexual violence also compromises the participation of targeted communities in public health efforts long after conflict has ended.

Link to full text of the report: Report-SRHealth-GA-Conflict-2013-eng


Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. 69. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “Violence and discrimination against women in the armed conflict in Colombia”. OEA/Ser.L/V/II, doc.67, 16 October 2006, para. 47.
  2. 70. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have upheld convictions of sexual violence as an instrument of crimes against humanity (ICTR, Prosecutor v. Akayesu, case No. ICTR-96-4-T, judgement of 2 September 1998, para. 596); war crimes (ICTY, Prosecutor v. Zejnil Delalic, Zdravko Mucic, Hazim Delic and Esad Landzo, case No. IT-96-21-T, judgement of 15 November 1998, para. 495); and indicia of enslavement (ICTY, Prosecutor v. Dragoljub Kunerac, Radomir Kovas and Zoran Vukovic, case Nos. IT-96-23-T and IT-96-23/1-T, para. 543).
  3. 71. Obijiofor Aginam, “Rape and HIV as weapons of war” (Tokyo, UNU Press, 27 June 2012). Available from; Anuradha Kumar, Human Rights: Global Perspectives (New Delhi, Sarup & Sons, 2002), pp. 101-152; Bülent Diken and Carsten Bagge Lausten, “Becoming abject: rape as a weapon of war”, Body & Society, vol. 11, No. 1 (2005), p. 115.
  4. 72. Sandesh Sivakumaran, “Sexual violence against men in armed conflict”, European Journal of International Law, vol. 18, No. 2 (2007), pp. 253, 263.
  5. 73. Maria Zea and others, “Armed conflict, homonegativity and forced internal displacement: implications for HIV among Colombian gay, bisexual and transgender individuals”, Culture, Health, and Sexuality, vol. 15, No. 7 (April 2013), p. 8.
  6. 74. HRW, The War Within the War: Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in Eastern Congo(New York, 2002), p. 41.
  7. 75. WHO, “Rape: how women, the community and the health sector respond” (Geneva, 2007). Available from, pp. 12-14; Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, “Towards a cultural definition of rape”, Women’s Studies International Forum, vol. 22, No. 2 (March/April 1999), pp. 165-166.
  8. 76. Colleen Kivlahan and others, “Rape as a weapon of war in modern conflicts”, British Medical Journal, vol. 340, No. 3270 (June 2010), pp. 468-469.