Karima Benoune – “Our Ancestors Would Have Killed All These Women:” The Meanings of Jihadist Rape in 1990s Algeria
Rape and sexual abuse in armed conflict, such as that which occurred in Algeria during the 1990s at the hands of non-state armed groups, have come to be recognized in international law as among the gravest crimes. As noted by successive UN Special Rapporteurs on torture, such treatment constitutes a form of torture, a jus cogens violation of the highest level norms of international law. As recently reiterated by the Security Council Resolution 2106, it may constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity or even an act of genocide. All too often, as was the case in 90s Algeria, such abuses are accompanied by the offences of forced marriage, forced pregnancy and systematic sexual slavery. In addition to the normative advances in our understanding of these all-too-common practices, there have been some important procedural advances in combating wartime rape. For example, while they had historically failed women victims almost entirely, international tribunals have begun to prosecute cases of sexual abuse in armed conflict in certain country situations (though, sadly, never for matters arising out of Algeria's 1990s trauma). Yet, despite the international prosecutions that have taken place sexual violence in armed conflict in many regions of the world carried out by male perpetrators of many nationalities, ideologies and religious heritages remains a widespread scourge, and – as in Algeria – impunity and silence remain the rule rather than the exception.
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