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UN and African Union sign agreement to limit sexual violence

The UN and the African Union (AU) [official website] have signed [press release] a joint agreement on the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence in Africa. The UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura [UN profile], signed the document with Ambassador Smail Chergui [AU profile] of Algeria, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union. The agreement strengthens national policies, legislation, training, and institutional reforms in Africa to combat sexual violence as a result of conflict. The document was signed on January 31, the final day of the 22nd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson [UN profile] stated that the "UN aims to deepen its partnership with the AU, and that Africa will always find a ready and willing partner in the Organization as it progresses on the road of economic development to provide peace, more jobs, greater equality and better living conditions."

The AU launched [AU backgrounder] in 2002. The organization has been the subject of criticism recently for its declaration [text, PDF] that no serving heads of state and government or high-ranking officials should be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] or any tribunal. The statement comes in relation to the trial of two current heads of the Kenyan government, Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto [ICC case materials]. Last week, AU leadership encouraged [JURIST report] members to speak with one voice against the trials of sitting heads of state in the ICC. JURIST Guest Columnist Fred Kennedy Nkusi of the Independent Institute of Lay Adventists of Kigali and Mount Kenya University in Rwanda argue [JURIST op-ed] the AU should let the ICC live up to its mandate and not impede its progress, as the majority of its members are signatories of the Rome Statute of the ICC [ICC backgrounder]. In October Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized the AU's declaration made on October 12 [JURIST reports].

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