Question by Jim Cunningham MP on sexual violence issues in Sri Lanka

jim cunnighamSri Lanka

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reason Sri Lanka has not been included as a priority country for the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative. [200735]

Mr Swire: The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) is global in reach. It aims to address impunity for crimes of conflict-related sexual violence wherever these occur. We remain concerned at reports of a culture of impunity for rape and sexual violence and a lack of support for victims in Sri Lanka, as well as reports of the use of sexual violence as a means of torture in custody. We have engaged significantly with Sri Lanka on this issue. When the Foreign Secretary visited Sri Lanka in November 2013 to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

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(CHOGM), he hosted an event to highlight concerns about allegations of sexual violence in Sri Lanka during and after the conflict, and urged Sri Lanka to sign up to the UN Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. The UK is also supporting projects to ensure a zero tolerance approach to rape and sexual violence in Sri Lanka. Our presence at CHOGM also ensured that the final communiqué at the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Colombo in November 2013 contained the first ever commitment by member states to take action to prevent and respond to sexual violence.

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make an assessment of prevalence of sexual violence in conflict in Sri Lanka. [200736]

Mr Swire: We remain concerned at reports of a culture of impunity for rape and sexual violence and a lack of support for victims in Sri Lanka, as well as reports of the use of sexual violence as a means of torture in custody. We are clear that rape and sexual violence whether during conflict or afterwards is unacceptable and must stop and we are committed to tackling sexual violence in conflict wherever it happens.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), and I have urged Sri Lanka to sign up to the UN Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, and we are supporting projects to ensure a zero tolerance approach to rape and sexual violence in Sri Lanka. On 27 March, the UN Human Rights Council agreed a resolution on Sri Lanka that establishes an international investigation into allegations of violations of international law of both sides of the military conflict, and calls upon the Sri Lankan Government to make progress on reconciliation and human rights. The resolution also expresses serious concern at continuing reports of sexual and gender-based violence.

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