Museveni, now why plead for killers?
November 13, 2007
The debacle about whether Joseph Kony and his LRA gangsters should escape justice by benefiting from government’s amnesty has taken on a new twist with sharp differences emerging in the rebel camp about the future of the ongoing peace talks.
The fate of LRA’s second in command, Vincent Otti, is unknown after he was allegedly arrested by Kony, the LRA’s top ho ncho, who is not interested in peace. And this should not come as a surprise to many, even after spending a year and billions of shillings of taxpayers’ money wooing the insurgents out of war they shouldn’t have started in the first place.
For Kony and his LRA marauding ragtag vicious army now estimated at 600 strong, the human tragedy in northern Uganda was just a game. They derived much, very much pleasure from maiming, raping and abducting thousands of Ugandans; the young, the old and all.
The LRA butchers forced their captives to chop off each other’s limbs and lips. Kony and his gangsters forced children to shoot and kill their grandparents, mothers and fathers, their clansmen including pregnant women. Their indiscriminate, criminal acts spared none. It’s therefore contemptuous of President Yoweri Museveni, an elected national leader, to feel sorry and even plead for the life of Otti to be spared. The two men who are at the helm of the atrocious LRA are war criminals who should be at The Hague facing trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Who cares that they are in a sticky situation and have turned their blood stained guns against each other? What goes round comes around! The blood of so many people killed at the hands of these two men and the gangsters they lead has come to haunt them.
There is no place for war criminals in the civilised world and this is what has informed the fast evolving international criminal and human rights law. That’s why Kony and four other leaders of LRA are now indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2002.
The ICC has since issued arrest warrants against Kony, Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Raska Lukwiya. Ironically, the public should note that the arrest warrants were issued after a complaint filed in the ICC by President Museveni, who is now pleading for these accused to be spared!
According to the Rome Statute that set up the ICC, crimes against humanity include murder, extermination, enslavement, exportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law.
Torture, rape, sexual slavery also form part of crimes against humanity and these must be committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed to a civilian population which is what Kony and his henchmen have orchestrated in northern Uganda for 20 years.
Since Adolf Hitler’s Nazi atrocities, international criminal law has taken a new dimension and has gone ahead to recognise a number of offences as being international crimes.
Once a person has committed war crimes as stipulated in the Rome Statute, such a person cannot benefit from the municipal/ local amnesty law. In the case of former Chilean leader Gen. Senator Augusto Pinochet who was arrested in London on a warrant from Spain requesting his extradition on murder charges, the House of Lords held that international criminal law principles take precedent over municipal or local statutes.
Pinochet, just like Kony, was arrested at the request of Spanish judges seeking to extradite him to face charges related to more than 4,000 political killings alleged to have taken place during his 1973-1990 brutal dictatorship in Chile. Although the Chilean government tried to protect Pinochet, the international community prevailed and the man was charged for crimes against humanity.
Similarly, Mr Museveni and his government cannot have the option of providing a safe landing for Kony and his men because the international community can still have them extradited for trial in The Hague. Kony and the LRA should be tried for the heinous crimes committed against the people of northern Uganda.
The writer is a journalist and advocate
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