A Foreign Office minister has said the government is “horrified” by reports of sexual violence and rape by Russian armed forces in Ukraine.
Vicky Ford said she believed a new international convention was needed to prevent rape from being used as a weapon of war – a priority “even before this hideous war started”.
The minister also told MPs the UK would work with its allies to strengthen their response to tackling sexual violence in conflict, insisting “all options are on the table”.
Earlier this month, four women Ukrainian MPs, who were given special dispensation to travel to the UK, detailed in parliament the “medieval tactics” used by Russian forces, and relayed reports of women being raped and executed.
Speaking during an urgent question in the Commons, with particular reference of rape as a weapon of war, Ms Ford said that since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February, “we’ve been horrified by reports of rape and sexual violence committed by Russia’s armed forces in Ukraine”.
“We have been clear that Russia’s barbaric acts must be investigated and those responsible be held to account,” she told MPs.
Ms Ford added: “Sadly, rape in war is not new and before the war started in Ukraine, the foreign secretary committed the UK to doing more to tackle sexual violence in conflict, including – but not limited to – its use as a method of warfare.
“The UK continues to act decisively with its allies to punish the Putin regime post-unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. And we will do all we can to bring the perpetrators of war crimes, including sexual violence, to justice.”
The Conservative MP Anthony Magnall, who chairs the APPG on preventing sexual violence in conflict and who tabled the urgent question, urged the government to ensure all crimes will be “documented and prosecuted”.
He said: “It is a tragic reality that in conflicts and crises around the world, rape and sexual violence have become weapons of war.
“They are the tools of the vicious and violent and the consequences have such a long and far-reaching impact on the individuals, their families, their communities. And it is happening in Tigray, it’s happening in Myanmar, it’s happening in Iraq, and now it’s happening in Ukraine.
“Since the start of the conflict, there have been widespread reports of Russian troops resorting to rape and sexual violence against women and girls.”
Ms Ford said the Metropolitan Police’s war crimes division was helping “collect evidence from those who have come to the UK” from Ukraine and would support the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“Our energy and assistance and resources are targeted on supporting the work of the ICC on war crimes, rather than trying to build a new tribunal because that could take many years, but other countries are doing similar things to the Met Police’s operations,” she added.