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Refugee Protection and Sexual Violence

Executive Committee Meetings

Refugee Protection and Sexual Violence
No. 73 (XLIV) - 1993

8 October 1993
Executive Committee 44th session. Contained in United Nations General Assembly Document No. 12A (A/48/12/Add.1). Conclusion endorsed as complemented by the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme upon recommendation of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection of Refugees.

The Executive Committee,

Noting with grave concern the widespread occurrence of sexual violence in violation of the fundamental right to personal security as recognized in international human rights and humanitarian law, which inflicts serious harm and injury to the victims, their families and communities, and which has been a cause of coerced displacement including refugee movements in some areas of the world,

Noting also distressing reports that refugees and asylum-seekers, including children, in many instances have been subjected to rape or other forms of sexual violence during their flight or following their arrival in countries where they sought asylum, including sexual extortion in connection with the granting of basic necessities, personal documentation or refugee status,

Recognizing the need for concrete action to detect, deter and redress instances of sexual violence to effectively protect asylum-seekers and refugees,

Recognizing further that the prevention of sexual violence can contribute to averting coerced displacement including refugee situations and to facilitating solutions,

Stressing the importance of international instruments relating to refugees, human rights and humanitarian law for the protection of asylum-seekers, refugees and returnees against sexual violence,

Bearing in mind the draft Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women adopted by the Commission on the Status of Women as well as other measures being taken by the Commission on the Status of Women, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Commission on Human Rights, the Security Council and other bodies of the United Nations to prevent, investigate and, as appropriate, according to their mandates, punish sexual violence,

Reaffirming its Conclusions No. 39 (XXXVI), No. 54 (XXXIX), No. 60 (XL) and No. 64 (XLI) concerning refugee women,

(a) Strongly condemns persecution through sexual violence, which not only constitutes a gross violation of human rights, as well as, when committed in the context of armed conflict, a grave breach of humanitarian law, but is also a particularly serious offense to human dignity;

(b) Urges States to respect and ensure the fundamental right of all individuals within their territory to personal security, inter alia by enforcing relevant national laws in compliance with international legal standards and by adopting concrete measures to prevent and combat sexual violence, including:

(i) the development and implementation of training programmes aimed at promoting respect by law enforcement officers and members of military forces of the right of every individual, at all times and under all circumstances, to security of person, including protection from sexual violence,

(ii) implementation of effective, non-discriminatory legal remedies including the facilitation of the filing and investigation of complaints against sexual abuse, the prosecution of offenders, and timely and proportional disciplinary action in cases of abuse of power resulting in sexual violence,

(iii) arrangements facilitating prompt and unhindered access to all asylum-seekers, refugees and returnees for UNHCR and, as appropriate, other organizations approved by the Governments concerned, and

(iv) activities aimed at promoting the rights of refugee women, including through the dissemination of the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women and their implementation, in close cooperation with refugee women, in all sectors of refugee programmes;

(c) Calls upon States and UNHCR to ensure the equal access of women and men to refugee status determination procedures and to all forms of personal documentation relevant to refugees' freedom of movement, welfare and civil status, and to encourage the participation of refugee women as well as men in decisions relating to their voluntary repatriation or other durable solutions;

(d) Supports the recognition as refugees of persons whose claim to refugee status is based upon a well-founded fear of persecution, through sexual violence, for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion;

(e) Recommends the development by States of appropriate guidelines on women asylum-seekers, in recognition of the fact that women refugees often experience persecution differently from refugee men;

(f) Recommends that refugee victims of sexual violence and their families be provided with adequate medical and psycho-social care, including culturally appropriate counselling facilities, and generally be considered as persons of special concern to States and to UNHCR with respect to assistance and the search for durable solutions;

(g) Recommends that in procedures for the determination of refugee status, asylum-seekers who may have suffered sexual violence be treated with particular sensitivity;

(h) Reiterates the importance of ensuring the presence of female field staff in refugee programmes, including emergency operations, and the direct access of refugee women to them;

(i) Supports the High Commissioner's efforts, in coordination with other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations competent in this area, to develop and organize training courses for authorities, including camp officials, eligibility officers, and others dealing with refugees on practical protection measures for preventing and responding to sexual violence;

(j) Recommends the establishment by States of training programmes designed to ensure that those involved in the refugee status determination process are adequately sensitized to issues of gender and culture;

(k) Encourages the High Commissioner to pursue actively her efforts, in cooperation with bodies and organizations dealing with human rights, to increase awareness of the rights of refugees and the specific needs and abilities of refugee women and girls and to promote the full and effective implementation of the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women;

(l) Calls upon the High Commissioner to include the issue of sexual violence in future progress reports on the implementation of the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women;

(m) Requests the High Commissioner to issue as an Executive Committee document and disseminate widely the Note on Certain Aspects of Sexual Violence against Refugee Women.