During a conversation with human rights activist Nadia Murad on Wednesday, Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo emphasised that sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine must not go unpunished.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, numerous reports of women and girls, as well as men and boys, being allegedly raped by Russian soldiers in Ukraine have emerged.
"Sexual violence in conflicts is still widespread. In the war in Ukraine, too, we see sexual violence being used as a weapon of war," said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. "The stories about rapes of Ukrainian women and girls by Russian soldiers are horrifying and sickening."
"It must be clear to the perpetrators: this sexual violence will not go unpunished," he said. "Sexual violence against civilians is a crime against humanity and is punishable by the International Criminal Court."
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De Croo also stressed the importance of collecting as much evidence and testimonies as possible about sexual violence, so that an effective prosecution can take place, repeating statements he also made in April.
For Belgium, its "Women, Peace and Security" agenda is a priority in foreign policy and the country itself has just adopted a National Action Plan on the subject. One of the plan's six pillars is dedicated to the fight against conflict-related sexual violence to improve the situation of women and girls in (post-)conflict situations.
In a statement to The Brussels Times in early March, the Director of the UN Women Brussels Office, Dagmar Schumacher, stressed that women and girls in war zones are "at increased risk of sexual violence," and that "whatever the crisis, from conflict to climate, women and girls are affected first and worst."