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A Commentary on the Commission of Inquiry Report: “I lost my dignity.”

May 19, 2018

In May 2018, WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees and London School of Economics and Political Science Emerita Professor of International Law Christine Chinkin released a commentary on the UN report “ ‘I lost my dignity’: Sexual and gender-based violence in the Syrian Arab Republic.[1] “I lost my dignity” is the written summary of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry’s investigations covering the period March 2011 to December 2017, and it was presented during the 37th session of the Human Rights Council on 8 March.

The commentary provides historical context to the evolution of research on gender-based violence and a summary of the Commission of Inquiry’s report. Subsequently, Chinkin and Rees explain the nuances of the economy of women’s bodies and of war, and contextualise it within UN policymaking and implementation.

Broadly, Chinkin and Rees find the Commission of Inquiry’s report “ground-breaking. Few will be surprised by the content, given the previous reports and the existing knowledge of the brutality of the conflict, but this might well be the first report by a UN mandated body, albeit an independent one, which makes a significant departure from existing approaches to the subject.”

The analysis responds to the new information and advocates for international accountability as “a paramount obligation.” International criminal law and international human rights law, specifically in relation to UN Treaty Bodies and Human Rights Council members, are imperative to substantive peacebuilding and gendered violence prevention, state Chinkin and Rees.

Finally, the commentary concludes with recommendations for implementation, of extreme and time-sensitive importance in the prevention of violence.

“For there to be a break through on the appalling human rights violations and violations of IHL in the Syrian conflict, the multilateral system, through all its manifestations needs to work as it is supposed to do,” conclude Chinkin and Rees. “The report of the [Commission of Inquiry] says clearly what needs to be done, it is incumbent on the system to make that happen.”

WILPF is committed to a rights-based approach to furthering the agenda for feminist peace in Syria through a three-tiered strategy, comprising: a) civil society support for feminist movement building; b) enhancing women’s meaningful participation in decision making and politics, including in peace and transitional processes, and; c) advocating for grassroots-led, gender sensitive approaches to seeking accountability and justice for the harms experienced.

[1] UN index: A/HRC/37/CRP.3

Download the PDF of the commentary here.

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