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UN senior official addresses sexual violence issues in Cambodia and Kenya

UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura [official profile] on Friday welcomed the recent ruling [decision, PDF] by Cambodia’s genocide tribunal to annul a previous ruling that would have prevented it from trying crimes of sexual violence committed during the Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] regime. The decision by the Supreme Court Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] will allow acts of sexual violence to be included [UN News Centre report] in the case against three former Khmer Rouge officials who have been charged with crimes against humanity and genocide. Nearly two million people are thought to have died under the Khmer Rouge regime. While she praised the EEEC decision, Bangura also called on Kenyan authorities [UN News Centre report] to ensure the protection of civilians during the presidential election to be held on Monday, especially to prevent a repeat of the outbreak of sexual violence that followed the disputed 2007 elections. Bangura noted that thousands of cases of rape and other forms of sexual assault were documented after the elections. Monday will see the first presidential election held in Kenya since the 2007 violence, in which over 1,100 people were killed. National and international observers have warned of the risk of violence following the coming election, including the deliberate targeting of civilians due to ethnic or political affiliations. Recent statements made by the presidential candidates indicate their commitment to a peaceful and tolerant campaign, appealing to their supporters to do the same.

In February Kenyan presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta [case materials] asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder] to postpone his trial for his involvement in the 2007 post-election violence. The trial is currently set to begin on April 11. Earlier last month Kenyatta and another ICC defendant, former civil service chief Francis Muthaura [case materials], asked the ICC to review its decision [JURIST report] to move forward with the trial. In December the two Kenyans had announced [JURIST report] that, despite their upcoming trials, they will be running together in Monday's election.

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