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Libya may become first country to call conflict rape a war crime

July 5, 2013 at 3:28 PM

TRIPOLI, Libya, July 5 (UPI) -- Libyan lawmakers say they expect to pass a bill that would make rape during armed conflict a war crime, the first such law to be instituted by any country.

Juma Ahmad Atigha, the deputy president of Libya's General National Congress, says the GNC will vote on measure within a few weeks, The Guardian reported Friday.

A 10-year prison term accompanies a conviction for rape under current law. Anyone convicted under the war crime legislation would receive a life sentence.

The regime of deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi used rape as a weapon because of the cultural taboos against sexual assault, Atigha said.

"Rape is a very big scandal for a family," he said, "even though the woman has been forced: it is an attack on the dignity of the family, and the tribe to which it belongs.

"So it was logical to regard it as a war crime."

Nicoletta Gaida, president of the Italian NGO Ara Pacis Initiative, said the turning point for the bill came at a conference in Tripoli in May attended by the minister of justice, when a victim of conflict rape told how she was sexually tortured by Gadhafi supporters.

"When you say rape you think of a man violating a woman, " Gaida said. "But this was far, far worse."

The number of women violated during the uprising isn't known. Atigha estimates it was in the hundreds but Gaida says there may have been thousands.

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