U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video

Interview With Scott Simon of NPR

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
June 21, 2008

QUESTION: This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I’m Scott Simon.

In many parts of the world, the horror of sexual violence is becoming common among the horrors of war. This week, the United Nations Security Council adopted a U.S.-sponsored resolution that says, “Sexual attacks in conflict zones may be considered war crimes.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared at the UN on Thursday to introduce the resolution. She joins us by phone. Secretary Rice, thank you so much for being with us.

SECRETARY RICE: It’s very good to be with you, too.

QUESTION: And explain to us, please, what -- some of the language of this resolution and what exactly it accomplishes or obligates the UN to do.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution – Resolution 1325 some time ago about, essentially, this issue. But I formed a women’s foreign policy network about two years ago, made up largely of women foreign ministers and other ministers, and we felt that there needed to be more action on the issue of sexual violence against women, and particularly the use of sexual violence against women as a tool of warfare. And yesterday, we had very good representation from capitals as we-- but another resolution that now puts in place a mechanism for reporting on these crimes, that encourages very strong follow-up on these crimes, and then to try and do something about the impunity that sometimes accompanies them.

I myself really was very much moved by an experience that I had in 2005 of going to a refugee camp in Darfur and sitting with a group of women who – all of whom had experienced being raped by soldiers or by rebels as they just tried to go and do simple things like gather firewood or water. And so I felt very strongly about this and we were able yesterday in the Security Council to bring some important attention to the issue and to get the Secretary General to agree that he’s going to develop a mechanism to deal with it.

QUESTION: I want to note one of the provisions of the – one of the provisions in this resolution notes that women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear, and disperse and forcibly relocate civilian members of the community or ethnic group.

The – at some point, last year, I guess, China, Russia, South Africa, Vietnam had all expressed reservations on this, saying that admirable as some of these sentiments might be, they are already covered in other stipulations. What changed their minds?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that we’ve had some experiences, even including, for instance, some very bad experience with the peacekeeping forces. I have to say we – people have followed up and people have been punished, but --

QUESTION: These were UN peacekeepers.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, these were UN peacekeeping forces. And we’ve had some problems with that. And we’ve also, of course, continued to watch the horrors of Darfur. We’ve seen sexual violence against women in conflicts in the DROC, in Somalia. And I think there was finally a sense that the UN Security Council, which deals with threats to international peace and security, had to consider this a threat to international peace and security.

And I believe that the appearance yesterday of the South African Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Zuma, was a demonstration that people are coming around to this. But we’ve had very strong support from around the world. Over 50 nations sponsored this resolution, over 60 asked to speak yesterday. The place – the hall was completely filled. Clearly, this has gotten onto the agenda in a very good way.

QUESTION: Reading through the language of the resolution, one of the things that I noticed is it says – it stresses the need for the exclusion of sexual violence crimes from amnesty provisions --


QUESTION: -- in the context of the conflict resolution process. Doesn’t this mean, for example, if a nation has been through a civil war and they declare a general amnesty, that the United Nations will somehow prevent them from making – making troops who committed acts of sexual violence or police units, individual civilians, excluded from that amnesty? Can the UN do that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it is advisory, of course, in this sense. But I would hope that as amnesty provisions are made around the world, as reconciliation efforts are undertaken, that there would be a sense generally that people with this kind of crime would be considered to have really committed a kind of crime against humanity.

Now, I don’t doubt that there may be cases in which that advice will not be followed. But I think the view has been that these – it’s quite – it’s been quite the opposite, that these kind of crimes have not been really considered serious enough when amnesty provisions are written or when reconciliation efforts take place, that it’s been almost the absence of a view that these are real crimes to be dealt with or to be thought about in the same – the same seriousness with other crimes.

QUESTION: And is there anything that you would like to see the United States and, say, Western Europe, European community do independent of this UN resolution?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do believe that bringing it to the attention of everyone is important, but also programs to help women who are caught in these situations. One of the things that came out in several of the comments yesterday was that because of the humiliation and the stigma associated with having been violated in this way, the women who need help are sometimes not getting help. The United States has spent almost $48 million in Darfur to help women who have been through this kind of terror, to provide efforts at rehabilitation and counseling, to work with NGOs. I was very impressed, when I was in Darfur, at the NGOs that are working with these women, that have the caring, faith-based institutions that are working with these women.

So one thing that the developed world can do, countries like the United States and the European Union, is we can actually have programs to try to deal with the – to try to help with prevention, but also to try to deal with the very bad consequences when women are caught in this circumstance.

QUESTION: As you have heard, Secretary Rice, these allegations have been very seriously raised at UN peacekeeping troops.


QUESTION: Does it make it all the more difficult for countries, member states, for that matter, rebel groups to accept UN peacekeepers if they think they’re – if I might be blunt about it -- inviting a bunch of sexual criminals into their country?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that it is still a rare occurrence among peacekeepers. This is not something that you can tar every peacekeeping operation with or that you should. Peacekeeping is still the best way for the international community to react to circumstances of conflict and violence. But it does say that peacekeepers cannot be immune from the – from the punishment for crimes of this kind, or the revelation.

We had a former commander of the peacekeeping forces in the DROC who was with us yesterday. He talked about his experiences. He talked about the importance of making sure that peacekeepers knew their responsibilities. And one of the points that we made is that while the international community, when it sends in peacekeepers, has some responsibility, so do the individual nations from who – which those soldiers come. And so we’ve had some good examples lately of peacekeepers that have been charged in this way, and they have been held accountable by their own country.

So this can be done. I don’t want to – nobody wants to impugn peacekeeping as a whole. It is still the international community’s best way to deal with conflict. But this is one of the consequences, one of the unintended consequences that we do have to deal with.

QUESTION: I have to ask you, Secretary Rice, the New York Times reported on Friday that U.S. officials believe a Israeli military exercise that was conducted earlier this month was some kind of rehearsal for what could be the process of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, a way of alerting Iran they had this in place. You’re in a position to know a lot. Is that true?

SECRETARY RICE: Look, I’m not going to comment on someone’s comment anonymously on what they may have seen in military exercises. We are in constant discussion with the Israeli Government as well as many other governments about the threat and the problem of Iran, how to deal with the prospect of Iranian technology that could lead to a nuclear weapon. We are committed to a diplomatic course. And that’s what we’re dealing with. I really can’t comment on those anonymous comments.

QUESTION: And we also know the Council on Thursday condemned violence in Zimbabwe in advance of next week’s --


QUESTION: -- presidential runoff. Is that going to be an honest election?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, one of the – I had a roundtable yesterday that was co-chaired with Foreign Minister Bassole of Burkina Faso. And several African ambassadors, African representatives spoke up, saying that they didn’t see how this could be a free and fair election, given the intimidation. You know, elections don’t start on election day. They start in the run-up; can people campaign, are activists and opponents of the regime free from intimidation.

And I think you’d have to say that when you have the president of Zimbabwe saying that he’ll never accept an outcome in which the other side wins, or when you have the so-called war veterans intimidating people and accusing opposition leaders of treason, it’s kind of hard to see how that’s going to be a free and fair election. But we’re doing everything we can to get observers into the country, to fund observers from the South African Development Committee and from the AU to give it as best a chance as it can.

But this is a very serious matter. And the United States does intend to put it on the agenda of the Security Council next week.

QUESTION: There have been a lot of resolutions. Is anybody prepared to do anything other than pass another resolution?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, sometimes one has to admit that the international community, as a whole, is slow to act. You know, the United States has often been accused of too much unilateralism. But I’ll tell you, what we’ve tried to do is to be leaders, and to be leaders of multilateral institutions that can act. But we believe that unless the Security Council acts, it does stand to lose credibility.

Now we’ve had some good outcomes. For instance, the situation in Kenya just a few months ago seemed very dire. But a combination of international support for Kenyan processes and probably, most importantly, the Kenyan people themselves – and we came to a good resolution. I met just a day ago with the Prime Minister of Kenya, Mr. Odinga. And if you remember, he was sort of at the center of that controversy with President Kibaki. Now, that is working.

So sometimes, the international community can help and the interventions help. But you have to be strong. And it is important, when you have a situation like Zimbabwe, that you not have voices saying that it’s simply an internal matter for Zimbabwe. It’s clearly not an internal matter when, in South Africa itself, you’re having the violence against Zimbabwean refugees. So, yeah, the international community has -- must be stronger on some of these issues. But sometimes, it works, and it did work in Kenya.

QUESTION: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, thank you so much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. It was good to talk to you.


Released on June 21, 2008

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.