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U.N. Resolution On Sexual Violence Watered Down Due To U.S. Opposition

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The U.N. Security Council heard dramatic testimony today about sexual violence in war zones. Diplomats were meeting to pass a resolution aimed at supporting survivors. It had to be watered down because of U.S. objections to any reference to reproductive health care for victims. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The council heard from two Nobel laureates, Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman who was captured and raped by ISIS. Her lawyer, Amal Clooney, told the Security Council that Murad never expressed fear for her life, even as she recounted her suffering.

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AMAL CLOONEY: She has spoken of only one fear; that when this is all over, the ISIS men will just shave off their beards and go back to their normal lives, that there will be no justice.

KELEMEN: One option to avoid that, she says, would be to refer these cases to the International Criminal Court. But the Trump administration has withdrawn all support to the ICC, calling it, quote, "dead to us." The administration's anti-abortion stance also played out in the debate. A U.S. veto threat forced diplomats to drop language calling for reproductive health services for survivors, as British envoy Tariq Ahmad explained.

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TARIQ AHMAD: And we regret that the language on services for survivors of sexual violence, recognizing the acute need for those services to include comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care, including safe termination of pregnancies, did not meet with all the council members' support.

KELEMEN: U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen made no mention of that controversy in his remarks. Germany's Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who chaired the meeting, was putting the best face on the resolution, which passed 13-0, with China and Russia abstaining.

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CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN: We are very happy to have this resolution adopted. It was not easy. As Dr. Mukwege said, in these kind of things, you make 10 steps ahead and one step back.

KELEMEN: At least, he says, the resolution calls for accountability and justice.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.