Madeleine Rees speaking on military sex trafficking and the film "The Whistleblower" at the March 9, 2013 "Avenues to Accountability" Symposium at Fordham Law School, NY, NY.
The symposium was a platform for discussing the theme of accountability for perpetrators of gender-based violence particularly focused on reforming immunity and injustice as addressed in the movie “The Whistleblower.” Discussions were held on the legal, political and human rights imperatives of these issues and identification of ways forward including recommendations and concrete action steps.
The symposium was sponsored by: Anglican Women’s Empowerment, Network for Peace Through Dialogue, International Institute on Peace Education, National Peace Academy, World Council for Curriculum and Instruction, The Pasos Peace Museum, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
“Avenues to Accountability” was a civil society symposium held during the 2013 session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
On March 9, 2013, with support from the Biosophical Institute, a symposium on exploring possibilities for establishing the criminal responsibility of those engaged in the human trafficking that sustains the commercial sex industry in service to the military was offered by several CSOs at the Law School of Fordham University in New York City. Jointly sponsored by Anglican Women’s Empowerment (AWE), the International Institute on Peace Education (IIPE), the National Peace Academy, Network for Peace through Dialogue, Pasos Peace Museum, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the symposium was attended by a large, engaged audience of about 150 people comprised mainly of participants in the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW,) the theme of which was Violence against Women.* The March 10th event was part of an on-going programmatic concern among these CSOs with the exploitation and enslavement of women with special emphasis on systemic military violence against women. This event dealt primarily with the latter problem within the context of UN peacekeeping operations, employing member states’ military and police personnel contributed by member states.
The program began with a showing of The Whistleblower, a feature film that exposes the involvement of UN peacekeepers, military contractors, and UN and US State Department personnel in trafficking women into brothels in post-conflict Bosnia. The film illustrates the deceptions which entrap young women in sexual slavery, their international transporting with forged passports which are held by their traffickers, the hovels in which they are housed, the bars in which and conditions under which they are prostituted to peacekeepers, contractors and diplomats. The viewing was a forceful – for some overwhelming – glimpse into systematic, criminal and severe violence against women. All were very moved by it; so that the coffee break between the film and the panel on accountability occasioned - after the first stunned silence - intense discussion of the shocking and intolerable violence of trafficking.
The afternoon panel was preceded by a statement of the purpose of the program by Betty Reardon who noted the intention of the discussions to follow. The intention was to explore - through consideration of the obstacles to and possibilities for holding perpetrators of crimes such as those dramatized in the film criminally responsible - ways to strengthen international law as a tool to protect and implement human rights, to provide legal alternatives to armed force to resolve conflicts and defend national interests.
The first panelist, Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of WILPF was at the time in which the film is set, the Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bosnia (she was played in the film by Vanessa Redgrave). She gave a frank and precise overview of the actual circumstances in Bosnia and the ways in which international structures and regulations were manipulated to sustain the trafficking and provide impunity to the international forces, intergovernmental and governmental personnel involved in the crimes.
Dorota Gierycz, second panelist, is a visiting scholar at Fordham University who also had first hand experiences of the problems in Bosnia and other areas where she had served as a legal officer for the UN Office of Peacekeeping. She addressed the responsibilities of the UN Security Council under whose jurisdiction peacekeeping operations are conducted, citing the provisions of the UN charter and international law that could have been the grounds for the Council taking action in the face of these crimes.
The final panel presentation was offered by Lisa Davis, Legal Counsel for Madre, a women’s human rights organization. Like the other two panelists, a lawyer, she is well versed in the possibilities for legal redress and accountability. She also has experience of how CSOs - in the absence of appropriate governmental or intergovernmental responses - are able to take remedial and preventive action to reduce violence against women in areas where military forces are sent by the UN.
On March 15, 2014 (please ignore the title in the film that indicates March 15, 2015), on the occasion of the 2014 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the International Institute on Peace Education and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, with the support of the Biosophical Institute, convened a screening of the film “’Singers’ in the Band” followed by a symposium on military sex trafficking.
The purpose of the screening, the panel and the participant discussion was to provide an understanding of the cultural and political underpinnings that give rise to and sustain military sex trafficking and possibilities to confront these crimes against women.
The symposium featured film producer-director David Goodman, Col. Ann Wright, Rabbi Jon Cutler, Ms. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, and Tony Jenkins.
The event was co-sponsored by: Anglican Women's Empowerment, The Biosophical Institute, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, CONNECT, Equality Now, Global Campaign for Peace Education, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders - a program partner of the International Civil Society Action Network, Interfaith Center of New York, International Institute on Peace Education, National Peace Academy, Network for Peace Through Dialogue, Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, Pasos Peace Museum, WCCI: World Council on Curriculum and Instruction, WILPF: Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom