2015 Equality, Peace, Security and Conflict Other

Stronger than Justice: Armed Group Impunity for Sexual Violence

Angela Muvumba Sellström

Which conditions lead to armed group impunity for sexual violence? This dissertation focuses on African armed actors that have been exposed to settlement processes in the post-Cold War period. It is composed of two components. First, a cross-actor analysis that addresses one part of our impunity puzzle: the association between ‘pardons’ as exemplified by amnesties, and the levels of rape, sexual slavery and other abuses by signatories to peace accords. The second and main part of the study compared two rebel armed groups, National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) and Palipehutu-Forces for National Liberation (FNL) from Burundi.

The report was presented during the seminar Conflict, sexual violence and statebuilding in Sweden´s development cooperation.

Main findings

  • An important finding is that amnesties are ubiquitous. All nine agreements for the actors in the dataset included some form of amnesty.
  • Pardons, at least in form of amnesties arising from the peace process, do not lead to sexual violence.
  • CNDD-FDD perpetrators would not necessarily be punished for sexual violence—it all depended on who did what, against whom and when. In contrast, the FNL former fighters were overwhelmingly certain that sexual violence would result in severe consequences, mainly death, which applied to foot-soldiers as well as commanders.

Angela Muvumba Sellström is a Project Manager at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University and a researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute. She defended her dissertation Stronger than Justice: Armed Group Impunity for Sexual Violence at Uppsala University in January 2015.