For the first time, a United Nations tribunal has declared that rape is a "genocidal" crime and that sexual violence is not only limited to physical acts.
In the trial of former Rwandan village mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu, accused of presiding over the rape, murder, torture, and genocide of 2,000 minority Tutsis, one witness described the gang-rape of three Tutsi women, who were later bludgeoned to death and thrown into a shallow grave.
U.N. judges ruled that Akayesu was criminally responsible for committing sexual violence against Tutsi women because he witnessed the attacks and encouraged militiamen and police to rape and kill them.
Judge Laity Kama of Senegal stated that acts of sexual violence "constitute genocide, the same as any other act."
Women's rights group's believe that the ruling will set a precedent and make it easier to prosecute cases of war-time rape.
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