ICC Spurns LRA Bid

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[International: Uganda]

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has made it clear that the indictments against the top leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and outstanding warrants won’t be overturned after a meeting with lawyers for the rebel group.

A team of lawyers for the LRA met on Monday with ICC officials in The Hague in a bid to have the indictments and warrants vacated.

LRA Chief negotiator, David Nyekorach Matsanga said: "We want the charges dropped by the ICC because we have signed a peace agreement with the government of Uganda."

"Uganda has got a judicial system that is working. Unlike Somalia, Liberia or Sierra Leone, Uganda is not a failed state," Dr. Matsanga told this reporter in a telephone interview.

Dr. Matsanga added that; "Uganda is not like Somalia, Liberia or Sierra Leone where you can actually have people taken away from their countries to be charged in The Hague"

"It does not mean that there is only justice in The Hague. Justice can be got in Uganda. Justice is justice," he said in an interview.

Dr. Matsanga further said; "Based on that, we expect the ICC not to continue blocking peace and drop those indictments."

Uganda’s leadership have indicated to the LRA that once a peace deal between the rebels and government is concluded, government would set up a local court to try war crimes, keeping LRA leaders safe from the ICC.

But according to the Rome Statute, the instruments that helped form the ICC, only a permanent member of the United Nations security council can ask that the warrants be suspended for renewable one-year periods. Neither the court, unilaterally, or the Uganda government has the power to vacate the indictments or warrants seeking arrest of the LRA leaders, including Joseph Kony.

Kony has balked on signing a peace deal with Uganda government, demanding that the warrants first be lifted. The ICC issued the arrest warrants for Kony and his top four commanders in October, 2005. Two of the commanders have since died in mysterious circumstances.

Nearly two million people were displaced when Uganda government ordered Acholi civilians to abandon their homes, clamming they would be protected in camps set by government. The World Health Organization reports that as many as 1,000 people were weak die in the squalid camps, meaning more people perished under government protection than in conflict between government and LRA, since fighting has lasted 22 years, from the time Yoweri Museveni himself seized power through the barrel of the gun.

Museveni's critics argue that this war in Uganda changed its locus from central Uganda to the northern and that over the years, it had been abused by government officials and the military for commercial gains.

Over the weekend the leader of opposition in Ugandan Parliament, Professor Morris Ogenga Latigo, speaking to an audience at St. Andrew's Church in East London said that; "You should know that, the government uses the problems of people from northern Uganda to get money."

On the request of Museveni, The Hague-based ICC issued an October 2005 arrest warrants for Kony and others in a gesture that was seen as a milestone for an end to the deadly conflict.

In July 2006, Museveni announced that the LRA leader Kony and others would be given amnesty by Ugandan government after the conclusion of the on-going peace talks mediated by leadership of southern Sudan. Since then, the Ugandan government and the LRA have been in negotiations; early this month the sides signed the last in a series of treaties, overlaying the way for a final peace accord.

The charges against Kony and two of his deputies have become the main obstacle. The court confirmed that registry officials had met the LRA delegation on Monday.

According to an official statement issued by The Hague, LRA lawyers could only discuss procedural issues such as how to file documentation and how to organize defense counsel.

"As a neutral organ that facilitates fair trial, the registry does not engage in substantive discussions with any of the parties on the merits of cases before the court," reads the statement in parts.

ICC Chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo had previously told The Black Star News that he expected the warrants against Kony to be carried out. Last week, he said he would not meet with the rebels but that they could approach the court's judges if they wanted to challenge his case.

There is every indication that undercurrents of conflict will remain even after a treaty.

"They are the ones drove these people into the camps, requested the ICC to indict Kony and his commanders,” said a leading opinion leader from the north, who notes that blame is shared by government and LRA for the calamity that has befallen the north.




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Investigative news reporter Miwambo writes for The Black Star News from Europe and can be contacted with news tips at nosamiw03@gmail.com


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