Tuesday, March 18, 2008


ICC integrity sitting at the crossroads
The Human Rights Watch has warned that the International Criminal Court, set up to handle the world's most heinous crimes, risks failure if Joseph Kony, the leader of the brutal Lords Resistance Army, is allowed to escape justice.

The international human rights watchdog has now challenged the 105 states that subscribe to the ICC to prove their commitment and have the indicted Joseph Kony and four other LRA leaders face trial on 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2002. The ICC has since issued arrest warrants for Kony, the LRA second in command,Vincent Otti , Okot Odhiambo and Raska Lukwiya.

The Human Rights Watch concerns should be taken seriously by law abiding Ugandans especially now that President Museveni, the man who took Kony to the ICC for war crimes, is about to renege on his word and offer Kony a safe landing!

But as Mr Museveni and the vicious LRA and their bloodstained leaders continue to play political mind games in pursuit of an elusive peace deal- Ugandans and the international community should not forget the torture, indiscriminate armed attacks Kony and his marauding rag tag army visited on civilians in northern Uganda for over 20 years.

There has been too much bloodletting and the LRA war which shouldn't have been fought in the first place, has cost the country billions of taxpayers' money plunging our economy into a crunch for two decades.

Kony and his fighters abducted and raped helpless school girls, they forced children to fight in a war for no justifiable cause, mutilated and massacred about 30,000 people in northern Uganda and displaced close to two million others.

Even as Kony and his henchmen engage in political maneuvers to circumvent the law, they are not shameful of the fact that they still illegally hold thousands of abducted people mostly children and women.

This is, therefore, a critical moment for the credibility of the ICC which is now sending out mixed signals- that it might after all, back off from its earlier stance that it had credible evidence against Kony and his gangsters who should stand trial in The Hague.

The ICC has asked the regime in Kampala to furnish it with information on the competence of the proposed war crimes courts that would try indicted LRA commanders in Uganda if a peace deal is reached.

This is a wrong signal to be sent out at the wrong time when the world is watching to see if the ICC shall stand up for its principal goals to guarantee that war criminals have no hiding place in the civilised world.

It’s now an established cardinal principle of international criminal law and in the spirit of the Rome Statute that set up the ICC; that war crimes and crimes against humanity are effectively international crimes not only visited on the people of northern Uganda but the civilised world as a whole .

The ICC enjoys international judicial independence and it should not allow its reputation to be soiled by the political machinations of the UN Security Council which is being courted by the Uganda government in cohort with the indicted war criminals to withdraw the indictments.

There is been an ongoing debate that national and international justice systems can be fused and in this case allow the ICC to work with the proposed Special High Court Division of Uganda to prosecute war crimes.

This is a lame argument. War crimes and crimes against humanity are international in nature. They affect the whole world and the perpetuators should stand trial conducted by an impartial and internationally recognised criminal tribunal. This was the spirit under which the ICC was established. And this is not the time to change the rules and goal posts.

Apart from municipal (local) judicial systems being prone to political interference, only a handful of Ugandan judges have the training and experience needed to handle war crimes cases. One of them is Justice Julia Sebutinde, currently working for the Special Court for Sierra Leone on The Hague-based trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Kony and his co-brutal murderers should stand trial for their criminal acts at The Hague to ensure the long suffering people of northern Uganda finally get justice.

The writer is a journalist and advocate

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