On 14 April 2011, Margot Wallström said in her briefing to the UN Security Councilthat
“Reports from transit camps on the Libya-Tunisia border, from surgeons, doctorsand international media representatives, suggest that it is not plausible to consider her [Iman al-Obeidi’s] case an isolated incident.”
According to the UK NGO, Save theChildren, children “have witnessed horrendous scenes. Some said they saw their fathersmurdered and mothers raped.”
Children themselves have also allegedly become targetsof sexual violence. Libyan families told Save the Children that “children as young aseight had been sexually assaulted - sometimes in front of their families.”
Sexual violence against women, rape specifically, is frequently used as a weapon of war.Over the last two decades, international war crimes tribunals have repeatedly recognizedvarious forms of sexual violence as war crimes or – when committed on a widespread or systematic basis – as crimes against humanity. Because of the grave and damagingimpact on its victims, rape has been recognised as a form of torture. When it is said tohave occurred, the State has a duty to investigate the allegations in compliance with itsinternational obligations and to afford victims with a remedy and reparations, includingtaking the appropriate measures to end ongoing abuses and prevent recurrence. Theseobligations are set out in international conventions ratified by Libya including the AfricanCharter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Protocol to the African Charter on Humanand Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. In order to comply with suchobligations, the State must ensure that investigations are independent, thorough andeffective. An effective investigation must be capable of determining whether criminalwrongdoing has occurred and, if so, identify the person(s) responsible.
In the case of Ms. al-Obeidi there has been no official investigation into allegations of rape. Instead, Ms. al-Obeidi’s account at the Rixos Hotel was interrupted by securityforces who took her from the hotel and detained her for three days.
Since her release,Ms. al-Obeidi has been prevented from seeking justice in Libyan courts: the PublicProsecutor has refused to meet with her and no effective official investigations havetaken place.
Ms. al-Obeidi claims that the government knows where other women are being held and abused by Gaddafi militiamen, and that neighbours have confirmed the
Save the Children.
See, e.g., African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum v. Zimbabwe
, para. 146 (2006). See also article 4 of the Protocol to theAfrican Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
Cooper Interview 1; Robertson Interview.