Lubanga Trial: Woes For Museveni And Kagame

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[Global News: War Crimes In Africa]

In a sign of possible trouble for the political and military leadership in Uganda and Rwanda, a major human rights organization has called for the International Criminal Court to prosecute officials from those countries for their role in war crimes committed in Congo.

The group also called for action against Lubanga’s supporters within the Congolese government. Human Rights Watch called on the ICC to consider charging political leaders from Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, CNN reported.

The call for the ICC to consider charges against officials in Uganda and Rwanda comes at a time of increased scrutiny of war crimes in Congo even as the trial of a Congolese warlord opened today in the Hague, where the ICC is based.

Launched seven years ago, the ICC prosecutes war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.

Since the early 2000s almost seven million Congolese are said to have perished in genocidal wars most of which was caused by invading armies.

Charged with war crimes is Thomas Lubanga, a former Congo warlord whose trial kicked off today. The Prosecution Office has compiled 1, 671 documents, and also submitted video evidence allegedly showing Lubanga in training camps with recruits under the age of 15. Additionally, 34 witnesses will testify against Lubanga, ICC officials say.

Although Lubanga has been in ICC custody since 2006, the Congo continues to bleed from atrocities committed by other warlords, most recently by Laurent Nkunda, who was backed by Rwanda according to a recent United Nations report.

Fearing repercussions of supporting Nkunda, who is accused of massacres in eastern Congo, Rwanda announced his arrest last Friday – observers doubt that Rwanda will release Nkunda to the ICC since he is the keeper of many secrets. Congo’s government has also called for his extradition.

Today, as the trial opened for Lubanga, whose militia, UCP was once backed by Uganda according to Human Rights Watch, officials called for the ICC not to limit their actions only to the Congo warlord, who is accused of recruiting and using child soldiers in his genocidal wars.

In a chilling 2003 report "Ituri: Covered In Blood," Human Rights Watch detailed Uganda's support for Lubanga and scores of other Congo militias when Uganda occupied Congo's Ituri region from 1998-2003. In 2005 the International Court of Justice found Uganda liable for massacres and pillage, granting $10 billion in compensation to Congo.

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The ICC then launched its separate investigation.

"This first ICC trial makes it clear that the use of children in armed combat is a war crime that can and will be prosecuted at the international level," Param-Preet Singh, counsel in Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program told CNN.

"The ICC must go beyond local war lords like Lubanga," Singh added. "We look to the prosecutor to investigate those who supported Lubanga and other militias operating in Ituri, including senior officials in Kinshasa, Kigali, and Kampala."

Human Rights Watch also called for the trial of Bosco Ntaganda, who until recently was chief of staff to Laurent Nkunda. He was indicted by the ICC last year.

Miwambo reports for The Black Star News from Europe


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