The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 in 2008, which condemns the use of sexual violence as a tool of war, and declares that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide”. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize deeply reflects Alfred Nobel’s will. The recipients of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynaecologist and Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist who lives in Germany, have both put their personal security at risk by courageously fighting war crimes and seeking justice for the victims of war crimes.
Denis Mukwege founded the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Congo, where he specialises in the treatment of women who have been raped by armed rebels. According to the international media, Mukwege is “likely the world’s leading expert on repairing injuries of rape.” In September 2012, Mukwege gave a speech at the United Nations where he condemned the mass rapes occurring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the October 22, 2014 issue of the New York Times, he had vehemently criticised the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop what he called an unjust war that has used violence against women and rape as a strategy of war.
Since the Panzi Hospital was established in Bukavu in 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his staff have treated thousands of patients who have fallen victim to such assaults. Most of the abuses have been committed in the context of a long-lasting civil war that has cost the lives of more than six million Congolese. Mukwege is an international symbol of the struggle to end sexual violence in war and armed conflicts.
Nadia Murad, hailing from the Yazidi ethno-religious minority of Iraq, is herself a victim of war crimes. She is one of an estimated 3000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by the Islamic State (IS) army. The abuses were systematic and part of a military strategy which was used to subjugate Yazidis and other religious minorities. Murad was reportedly held as a slave in the city of Mosul where she was beaten, stubbed with cigarettes and raped when trying to escape. She could finally manage to escape after three months of captitude. Following her escape, she has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and in speaking on behalf of other victims. On December 16, 2015, Murad briefed the United Nations Security Council on the issue of human trafficking and conflict. In 2016, at the age of 23, she was named the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. As an ambas-sador, Murad is a part of global and local advocacy initiatives to bring awareness of human trafficking and refugees. Both laureates of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize have made significant contributions to stop and resist war crimes. The entire world should stand together courageously to stop the use of sexual violence as a weapon in war strategy. The names of Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad will be at the forefront of the struggle against sexual violence as a tool of war.