Uganda Courts Can Prosecute Serious Crimes

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[Peace In Uganda: A Rejoinder]

Re: "Support Dr. Machar For Uganda Peace," by Milton Allimadi, June 17, 2008.

You are right on-spot in your analysis of the peace process in northernUganda mediated by Dr. Riek Machar.

The mediator deserves nomination forthe Noble Peace Prize. Further than that, he should win the Prize. He really committed himself unselfishness to usher peace in northern Ugandaand Southern Sudan; certainly, his efforts are not in vain.

I concur with you in many of your thoughts about the peace process, and the way-forward, but I differ on the Special Division of the High Court; i.e. the domestic court proposed to handle grave crimes committed by LRA. I am certain that you are aware that the ICC indictment has been acrucial area of discussion and debate during the Juba Peace Talks right from the inception, and according to the Rome Statute, Elements of Crimes and Rules of Procedures of the ICC, ICC can withdraw/or drop the arrest warrants when the two (2) Pre-trial Chambers (I &II) are convinced and assured that a set-up domestic court is competent and capable of handling war crimes such as genocide, crime against humanity, war aggression, and also respecting the complimentarity aspect clearly stipulated in the Rome Statute of the ICC.

It was on this basis, that the LRA and the Government of Uganda (GoU) Peace Team had to agree to the proposed set-up ofthe domestic court in Uganda. It's important to note that, Kony and his top commanders out-rightly rejected the idea of being tried and prosecuted in The Hague. In fact, in any case, they opted to be tried in Uganda.

I strongly believe the GoU accepted the creation of the Special Division of the High Court on the basis of demonstrating to the ICC that the government's judicial system can be in position to try and prosecute grave international crimes committed by perpetrators. Furthermore, the proposed creation of the domestic court was suggested and agreed upon by both the LRA and GoU Peace Teams.

As for the Special UN War Crimes Court for Uganda based in South Africa or in any other African state leaves a lot to be desired. Let us not fall in the trap of the other special courts in the world, notably, theYugoslavian Special Court in The Hague, The Rwandan Tribunal in Arusha, and the Sierra Leonean Special Court in Sierra Leone and in The Hague.

It's essential to point out that the special courts were set-up before the establishment of the ICC in 2002, and it was on the basis of the various special courts set-up for targeted individuals like Charles Taylor and henchmen, Slobodan Milosevic, and the Rwanda perpetrators of genocide. But when the Rome Statute was explicitly discussed, debated and ratified by member states to establish the ICC/World Court, it gave it a universal outlook to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of grave international crimes around the world regardless of the geographical specification.

Further still, it shall replace the hybrid 'special courts', in other-words, special courts shall soon cease to exist, and besides, it was recognized that special courts were expensiveto maintain, and therefore, it was thought prudent to have a unified International Court to investigate and prosecute violators of grave crimes.

To conclude, special courts have timeframes/expiry periods which make it difficult to shift from one case to another or from one country to another. Soon, many of the Special Courts shall be closed and all eyes shall be directed to the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands. 

Needless to say, I concur with you that all parties involved in the perpetration of graves crimes must be held accountable regardless of the power they weld.

The writer is Senior Advisor, Northern Uganda,
The Netherlands Embassy, Uganda

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