Angelina Jolie Urges End to War-Zone Rape at London Summit

Image:  Angelina Jolie waves as she arrives at a global summit to end sexual violence in conflict, in London
Angelina Jolie waves as she arrives at a global summit to end sexual violence in conflict in London on Tuesday.ANDREW WINNING / Reuters

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LONDON - Angelina Jolie gave an impassioned plea Tuesday for an end to rape and sexual violence as a tactic in war, warning that unless something is done "this evil will continue to ruin the lives of millions of people."

The film star and campaigner gave the remarks while opening a four-day event in London, the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, the biggest meeting on the issue ever organized.

"Wartime rape is a crime that thrives on silence and denial...The rapist feels above the law because the law rarely touches them and society tolerates them," said Jolie, speaking at the summit's opening alongside British Foreign Minister William Hague.

Hague and Jolie arrive at the summit Tuesday.CARL COURT / AFP - Getty Images

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"War zone rape has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power," added Jolie, who in addition to her Hollywood persona is a special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "We need to shatter that culture of impunity and make justice not the exception but the norm for these crimes.

"This evil will continue to ruin the lives of millions of people unless we make this summit a turning point - and we can."

The four-day summit is drawing more than 1,000 experts and activists, and dozens of religious leaders, NGOs and political leaders from 117 countries at London's ExCeL center.

"This will be the greatest concentration of efforts and discussion and decision ever seen in combating sexual violence and conflict," Hague said.

He added that the conference would agree on an international protocol that would "set standards internationally for the documentation and investigation of these crimes" and help countries "change their laws, train their armies, and to push their prosecutors to take the necessary action."

Jolie and the British government convened the conference after working together on the issue for around two years.

Hague was due to chair a meeting later Tuesday focused on the Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram, and the international protocol was due to be launched Wednesday.

The summit has garnered significant attention on social media, and as the event was due to start Pope Francis tweeted a message a support using the associated hashtag, #timetoact.

- Alexander Smith