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Uganda’s Govt Denies Media Reports on War Crimes Court

Uganda’s government has denied speculations it is going to set up local war crimes courts for the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. The government said it has been consulting with victims of the over twenty years of rebel insurgency to find a mechanism for the third agenda item at the current peace talks, which is accountability and reconciliation.

Ruhakana Rugunda is the leader of Uganda’s government negotiating team with the LRA rebels. From the capital, Kampala he tells reporter Peter Clottey that a final decision would be taken only if all the stakeholders at the peace negotiations have given their input.

“That report is not correct. We are consulting with the people on the mechanism we should put in place to ensure accountability and reconciliation, and to ensure there is not impunity. The exact form of the mechanism has not yet been defined; it would be defined after consultations with the people and the victims, and also after discussing with the Lord’s Resistance Army, and the mediation of the government of Southern Sudan in Juba. That’s when the final decision would be taken,” Rugunda said.

He said although the rebels have been asking for the International Criminal Court-issued arrest warrants against the top leadership of the rebels, Uganda’s government supports the court’s effort to bring justice to victims who have been adversely affected by the actions of The LRA and others.

“As you know the International Criminal Court is an autonomous and independent international court on serious crimes against humanity. Its mandate is not under challenge. On the contrary, government of Uganda, and Uganda as a country is a state party to ICC. So people may raise issues about ICC, nevertheless, Uganda fully supports the role and mandate of the International Criminal Court,” he pointed out.

Rugunda said the government is consulting with all people including legal minds on the third agenda item, which is accountability and reconciliation.

“Yes, there is a cooperation between us and the lawyers so that is on; that is correct. We have already had consultations with civil society in Kampala. We are now in Gulu, northern Uganda consulting with people in the Achioli region, after which we will move to West Nile and consult with the people in West Nile. And before the end of the month, we would also go to the Tesso region to consult with the people in that region,” Rugunda said.

He said the victims of the LRA rebels and whoever may have been involved would have to face justice.

“The government side and the Uganda People’s Defense Forces in particular has had a transparent accounting system where persons who have been suspected of crimes have been subjected to the legal process, and it is the army statute that governs the conduct of soldiers. So whoever has been suspected of crime has been subjected to rigorous process of the law…it is the Lord’s Resistance Army, which did not have this system of accountability. And the fact that it has an open system of abducting people, therefore, it is that side that needs to be accountable,” he noted.