(L-R): Minister Asselborn; James Cleverly, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the United Kingdom; Credit: MAEE

Luxembourg's Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has reported that, on Sunsay 28 November 2022, Minister Jean Asselborn participated in the conference of the Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) in London.

The conference was firstly an opportunity for the minister to meet representatives of the Yazda organisation, which supports the survivors of the massacres, kidnappings and sexual slavery orchestrated by Daesh against the Yazidi populations in Sinjar in the north of Iraq in 2014. Jean Asselborn was able to speak with Ahmed Khudida, deputy director of the NGO Yazda, as well as with Hala Safel, a Yazidi survivor, whom he had the opportunity to meet in March 2022 in Duhok, in Iraqi Kurdistan. Minister Asselborn welcomed the fact that, on 9 November, the Chamber of Deputies adopted a statement recognising the genocide of the Yazidi populations in Syria and Iraq, sending a strong signal of Luxembourg's support for the survivors. In this context, the head of Luxembourg's diplomacy reaffirmed Luxembourg's financial support for the organisation. On the sidelines of the conference, the Minister was also able to discuss with Nadia Murad, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and survivor of Yazidi origin.

Subsequently, the Minister had a bilateral meeting with Leo Docherty, Minister and British Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in charge of EU-UK relations. Ministers Asselborn and Docherty discussed bilateral relations between Luxembourg and the United Kingdom and the possibilities of strengthening them, particularly with regard to the mobility of young people and students between the two countries. In addition, EU-UK relations, including new avenues of cooperation, as well as the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, were among the topics discussed.

During the conference, Minister Asselborn made a statement on support for survivors. After exposing the difficult living conditions of Yazidi survivors whom he met during his visit to the Duhok refugee camp in March 2022, Jean Asselborn said "We can see in current conflict situations that rape has been transformed into a real and systematic weapon of war, a tactic aimed at dehumanizing the other. At the same time, these situations, such as in Syria, Yemen or Myanmar have resulted in the internal displacement of many people, leaving them vulnerable to kidnapping, human trafficking and slavery by armed groups."

Subsequently, Minister Asselborn stressed the importance for states to adopt survivor-centred approaches to help them rebuild their lives, including providing them with appropriate health care and psychosocial support services. In this context, two projects supported by Luxembourg were mentioned: Dr. Mukwege's Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Yazda project in Iraq.

In addition, the head of Luxembourg's diplomacy argued that survivors should have access to reparations for the crimes they suffered, adding that the perpetrators must be held accountable before international justice. At the same time, prevention and education must help prevent such crimes in the future, the minister said, by addressing the root causes of sexual violence in conflict, especially gender inequality, stereotypes and intersectional discrimination.

Minister Asselborn concluded his speech by thanking his HRH the Grand Duchess for her personal commitment to this important subject, in particular through her Speak Stand Rise Up! initiative which has given a platform to a large number of survivors to speak out and testify, and which has been able to raise funds to finance survivor support projects in many places around the world, for example in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Uganda.