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Activist to Petition ICC Over Alleged Uganda Atrocities

  • Peter Clottey

Kizza Besigye speaks to journalists, May 19, 2011, in the yard outside his house shortly after returning home after a confrontation with police, in Kasangati, Uganda.

Kizza Besigye speaks to journalists, May 19, 2011, in the yard outside his house shortly after returning home after a confrontation with police, in Kasangati, Uganda.

A prominent Ugandan political activist says he plans to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged human rights abuses in the East African country.

"There are widespread crimes and atrocities that have been committed and the important thing is that the criminal justice system in the country presently is incapable of handling these cases because of the compromised [state] of the criminal justice system,” said Dr. Kizza Besigye.

Besigye says he plans to continue to pressure the government in his campaign to ensure justice for Ugandans.

“Obviously any step aimed at ensuring justice for the people of Uganda must be pursued. We are involved in the struggle for justice so that we can all live as equally dignified citizens, and so I would have no hesitation in petitioning the ICC,” Besigye said.

Some analysts say Besigye’s plan to petition the ICC is unlikely to succeed because the U.N. Security Council and governments are the two main institutions that can refer a case of gross human rights violations or war crimes to the ICC. The ICC however can institute an investigation on its own if there is compelling evidence of human rights abuses.

Even so, Besigye said he was hopeful his petition would be accepted.

“I believe citizens can make a petition to the International Criminal Court as long as there is evidence that can be produced to the investigators of the criminal court, there is no reason why the International Criminal Court would not institute an investigation,” said Besigye.

Besigye, the former leader of the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) says the ICC failed to investigate the government’s role during the conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.

The ICC issued arrest warrants against top commanders of the LRA rebels, including the leader Joseph Kony, after indicting them for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Besigye accused both sides in the conflict of committing atrocities and wondered why only the LRA rebels were investigated for the crimes. He said he is compiling evidence of alleged atrocities committed by the Uganda national army during the conflict.

“We are still gathering the information. We believe there is sufficient information already available. But we are still gathering more information and at the appropriate time, with the advice of our legal teams, then we shall take our next steps,” said Besigye.

Supporters of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) have rejected Besigye’s accusations as a publicity stunt.

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