UN official, investigator at odds over Libya mass rape claim

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A UN top official took offence Friday at a UN investigator's description of mass rape claims in Libya as mass hysteria and said it was important to take such allegations seriously.

"I think we should avoid such language. What does it stand for? Does it mean that media has reported repeatedly? Does this constitute hysteria?" asked Margot Wallstroem, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict.

"This has been called history's greatest silence. For too long, it was not considered proper to mention rape and sexual violence. That's why it's so important to take it seriously," she added.

On Thursday, UN human rights investigator Cherif Bassiouni had expressed doubts over claims by the chief ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of evidence that Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi had ordered mass rapes.

Moreno-Ocampo had said Wednesday that there was evidence the Libyan authorities bought "Viagra-type" medicines and gave them to troops as part of the official rape policy.

Bassiouni, who led a team of investigators to Libya, said that his interpretation of the claim was that it was the result of a "massive hysteria."

A day later, Wallstroem spoke in defence of Moreno-Ocampo's claims, saying that there are "consistent reports from people, from organisations, from UN entities and others on the ground."

"The problem is very few women will actually come forward to report that they have been raped because it carries serious risks for them personally. So it will always be problematic to have an exact number of cases of rapes," she told journalists.

"It's difficult to give a figure, but this is part of the arsenal, the weaponry that the Kadhafi troops uses. This was confirmed also by the ICC prosecutor," she added.

Libyan women risk flogging and stoning if they reported rapes, and therefore, "we may only see the tip of the iceberg," she said.

© 2011 AFP

1 Comment To This Article

  • Nalliah Thayabharan posted:

    on 5th July 2011, 06:06:36 - Reply

    The past history of American wars tells us that, when the war-going begins to get tough, the professional P.R campaigns get going, often with wholly invented stories. For example, when in 1990 Defense Secretary Colin Powell was expressing doubts that the United States should attack Kuwait, stories appeared that, as revealed by classified satellite photos, Saddam had amassed 265,000 troops and 1500 tanks at the edge of the Saudi Arabian border. Powell then changed his mind, and the attack proceeded. But after the invasion a reporter from the St. Petersburg Times viewed satellite photos from a commercial satellite, and “she saw no sign of a quarter of a million troops or their tanks.”
    Hawks in Congress, notably Tom Lantos and Stephen Solarz, secured support for the attack on Iraq with a story from a 15-year-old girl, that she had seen Kuwaiti infants snatched from their incubators by Iraqi soldiers. The story was discredited when it was learned that the girl, the daughter of the Saudi ambassador in Washington, might not have visited the hospital at all. She had been prepped on her story by the P.R firm Hill