Angelina Jolie, UK's Hague, vow action at sexual violence summit

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[June 10, 2014] By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague vowed on Tuesday to produce practical action from the world's first summit on ending sexual violence in conflict, to punish those responsible and help victims.

Up to 1,200 government ministers, military and judicial officials and activists from up to 150 nations will attend the June 10-13 summit, intended as a call for action to protect women, children and men from rape and sex attacks in war zones.

Hague and Jolie, special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the conference was the culmination of two years of work.

"It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict," Oscar-winner Jolie said at the opening of a fringe event at the summit in London's docklands.

"It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians," she added. "It is done to torture and humiliate people and often to very young children ... and as an international community we are responsible for that."

Jolie's involvement in humanitarian issues dates back to 2001 when she traveled to Sierra Leone as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and saw the impact of years of civil war when an estimated 60,000 women were raped.

In 2012 she joined forces with Hague to tackle sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations which led last year to a declaration now signed by about 150 countries pledging to end impunity and provide justice and safety for victims.

"This whole subject has been taboo for far too long," said Jolie, calling for the summit to be a turning point.

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Hague said the meeting, to be attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, would agree an international protocol on Wednesday to push for international standards on recording and investigating sex crimes to bring more people to justice.

"We want the summit to shatter the culture of impunity for sexual violence, to increase support for the survivors and change the situation on the ground for the most affected countries," he said.

Practical ways to do this included strengthening laws so there were no safe havens for perpetrators, training armies and peacekeepers, and increasing funding to help survivors and protect women and children, he added.

The summit comes after a recent run of shocking cases of violence against women that was expected to raise the pressure on the world community for action rather than just promises.

These have included the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, the stoning to death of a pregnant woman in Pakistan in a so-called honor killing, and the gang-rape and murder of two Indian teenagers who were hanged from a tree.

Hague will host a ministerial meeting on security in Nigeria and the missing schoolgirls on Thursday.

(Editing by Stephen Addison)

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