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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Nicholas Cecil

Angelina Jolie: World must bring Vladimir Putin’s war rapists to justice

Angelina Jolie appealed to world leaders on Monday to step up action to bring Vladimir Putin’s war rapists to justice for the atrocities they are committing in Ukraine.

She warned that the sex offenders regarded themselves as “untouchable” and were carrying out their appalling crimes to “shatter” families and communities.

Speaking to The Standard, she said: “Outrage isn’t enough. Support for survivors, by itself, isn’t enough.

“The goal has to be to try to create a deterrent, by holding perpetrators to account, whoever they are.

“Half measures won’t work.”

The actress launched a campaign to end rape in war a decade ago, with the then Foreign Secretary William Hague, and in 2018 proposed an international commission to play a key role in taking this work forward.

Angelina Jolie comforts a young victim of the Kramatorsk railway attack in Lviv (Handout)

Horrific sex crimes have been committed by Putin’s troops during his nine-month war in Ukraine, with the first harrowing accounts emerging after they were forced to retreat from Bucha, Irpin and other areas near Kyiv.

“The rapes reported during the invasion of Ukraine follow a familiar pattern: soldiers move into a civilian area and attack and abuse women, out of a sense of impunity and entitlement, and to shatter families and whole communities,” said Ms Jolie.

“The people who carry out these abuses feel untouchable.

“Not enough has been done by the international community to attach a significant cost to these crimes. As a result, each time there is a new conflict, civilians pay the price.”

To hold the perpetrators to account, she stressed: “One step that could be taken immediately is to create a new, permanent, international commission to document and investigate sexual violence in conflict, and to support national and international investigators, prosecutors, and other accountability and justice mechanisms.”

Angelina Jolie speaks while meeting with volunteers during a visit to Lviv’s main railway station in April (VIA REUTERS)

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky says hundreds of Ukrainian women have been raped as Putin’s forces have used sexual violence as a weapon of war, with some of them reportedly executed afterwards.

This figure has not been confirmed and the Kremlin denies war crimes have been committed, though its claims often fly in the face of numerous reports by independent media.

In London, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is hosting a two-day conference, starting on Monday, to renew efforts to tackle the scourge of sexual violence in conflict in many countries including Ukraine, Ethiopia and Colombia.

Ten years after the landmark Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) was launched, representatives of around 70 countries were due to attend.

“The very threat of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war should bring immediate international condemnation, and swift action to stop those attacks before they start,” Mr Cleverly was due to stress.

Attendees will include Nadia Murad, a survivor of sexual violence in conflict, her fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Denis Mukwege, and the Countess of Wessex.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan, who has travelled to Ukraine this year as the world moves to bring Putin’s military commanders and officials to justice for war crimes committed there, will also be at the London conference.

He has said that Putin’s position as president does not give him immunity from prosecution if the evidence points to him having committed war crimes.

Mr Khan has already deployed a forensics and investigative team to Ukraine to gather evidence.

Ms Jolie was due to deliver a video message at the conference, and Lord Hague to address it on Tuesday.

Dr. Mukwege, Medical Director at the Panzi Hospital, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, said: “We are all here today because of survivors. All of them attending this conference represent thousands of others awaiting care, justice and reparations.

“Very few survivors have received the holistic care – including justice – that they deserve. As the survivors are sharing their recommendations, requests, and opinions, I ask everyone not only to listen to them but also pledge a commitment to act and support their demands.”

Ms Murad stressed: “It’s time to use every tool we have: sanctions, international trials, and universal jurisdiction to show that sexual violence in conflict will not be tolerated.

“We must make state and non-state actors think twice about the consequences of these crimes. Ending the status quo of impunity is essential for preventing people around the world from being subjected to experiences like mine.”

Mr Cleverly was due to announce £12.5 million of funding for a three-year strategy to ratchet up the PSVI campaign, putting survivors at the centre of tackling this abhorrent crime, and focusing on seven countries: Ukraine, Bosnia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq and South Sudan.

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