"The United States is deeply concerned by reports of wide-scale rape in Libya," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a written statement. "Recently, the International Criminal Court has taken note of the appalling evidence that rape in Libya is widespread," she said.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor for the International Criminal Court said in a statement in early June that Libyan soldiers may have been authorized by their leaders to use sexual assault against Libyan women for opposing the Gadhafi regime.
"[Moammar] Qadhafi"s security forces and other groups in the region are trying to divide the people by using violence against women and rape as tools of war, and the United States condemns this in the strongest possible terms," said Secretary of State Clinton.
Sexual violence against women in wartime is unfortunately nothing new, but in recent times, the intensity seems to be escalating. For example, during the Balkan conflict in the early 1990s, rape and sexual violence were routinely used by some of the military factions as part of a policy of "ethnic cleansing."
Then, beginning in the mid 1990s and still continuing today, rape and unimaginable sexual brutality has been used as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Secretary of State Clinton has said that "these acts don't just harm a single individual, or a single family, or village, or group," noting that they have universal implications and "have no place in any society."
Nonetheless, in the Middle East and North Africa there seems to be a new twist to this form of torture and repression, inasmuch as sexual violence is now seemingly being used against women specifically because they dare to voice an opinion or be dissidents.
"We are also troubled by reports of sexual violence used by governments to intimidate and punish protestors seeking democratic reforms across the Middle East and North Africa," said Secretary of State Clinton. "Rape, physical intimidation, sexual harassment, and even so-called 'virginity tests' have taken place in countries throughout the region. These egregious acts are violations of basic human dignity and run contrary to the democratic aspirations so courageously expressed throughout the region.
"It is an affront to all people who are yearning to live in a society free from violence with respect for basic human rights. We urge all governments to conduct immediate, transparent investigations into these allegations, and to hold accountable those found responsible."