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Amnesty International: Ugandan Government Should Hand Over Suspected War Criminals

Human rights group Amnesty International is calling for suspected war criminals in Uganda to be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The group's statement is in response to reports of a deal between the Ugandan government and the rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army, that calls for rebel leaders to be tried in Ugandan courts versus the ICC. For VOA, Tendai Maphosa has this report from London.

Amnesty says that a special court to deal with alleged war crimes agreed to by the Ugandan government and LRA rebels is "not acceptable" and circumvents international law.

Amnesty International legal advisor, Christopher Keith Hall, tells VOA that under the terms of an agreement, known as the Rome Statute, the Ugandan government has agreed to cooperate with the ICC.

"It's very disturbing because it suggests that the government will not honor its obligations under the Rome Statute to arrest and surrender the LRA members who are still alive who are subject to International Criminal Court arrest warrants, but instead seek to try them before a special division of the High Court in Uganda," he explained.

Hall said Amnesty is concerned that all of the accused should be assured a fair trial and yet not allowed to circumvent justice.

"The appropriate procedure is for them to arrest and surrender them and then either they or the arrested persons can argue that Uganda is able and willing to try them in a fair trial which is not designed to shield them from criminal responsibility," he added.

Hall also expressed concern over the absence of provisions to investigate and prosecute members of then government forces or their civilian superiors for war crimes or crimes against humanity.

During approximately 20 years of fighting between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government, soldiers on both sides have been accused of killing tens of thousands of people and forcibly displacing about two million more.

Arrest warrants for rebel leader Joseph Kony and four others were issued in 2005. Hall said that two of those named in the warrants are now known to have died.

The arrest warrants have been a major sticking point in peace negotiations between the government and the rebels. However, Amnesty insists that Uganda is obliged under international law to arrest and surrender those still alive regardless of any agreement reached in the peace process.