Uganda’s government says it will approach the International Criminal Court (ICC) to drop indictment charges against the top leadership of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) if a final peace deal is signed between the government and the rebels. This comes after the government consulted with victims of the more than two decades of rebel insurgency in the north of the country to ascertain which justice mechanism to use to put on trial the rebels accused of human rights abuses. The government also said its expects the accused rebels to submit themselves to local traditional forms of justice after the last item on the agenda of the peace talks is signed.
From the capital, Kampala, Ugandan Defense Minister Ruth Nankabira tells reporter Peter Clottey the government anticipates the accused rebels will be tried locally.
“The peace talks are going very well. And at the end of it all we expect a document where Joseph Kony will commit his men and women, who are in the bush to the Disarmament and Demobilization and Reintegration (DDRR) into the society. We also expect the Ugandan government to enact a law or to make a legislation through parliament that would handle the side of impunity, which the ICC was supposed to handle,” Nankabira pointed out.
She said the rebels would have to come under Uganda’s jurisdiction to face a local court.
“The ICC indicted Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and the rest because Uganda could not get those people because they were outside Uganda’s jurisdiction. After the peace talks, we expect those people to come back home. Therefore, when they come back home, our courts shall apply the new legislation that parliament would pass. And therefore, the same country that approached the ICC would approach them again to request them to relax or to withdraw the warrants of arrest to enable Uganda to handle the culprits,” she said.
Nankabira questioned why the rebels are upset about the ICC issued warrants against their leaders when they know exactly what to do.
“I also heard that Vincent Otti mentioned such a case, but I’m not worried because his team is going on with consultations. If they are not willing to sign the agreement before the warrants of arrest are lifted, why are they then going on with the consultations? Secondly, they have been sensitized on the procedures of ICC and Vincent Otti is aware that it is impossible for the ICC to withdraw the warrants of arrest before any tangible outcome. So the only justification I’m saying is the signing of the agenda item number five on DDRR, and then coming out of the bush, and then report to Uganda. So that the Uganda government can now take over the case,” Nankabira noted.
She reiterated conditions under which the government could approach the ICC for the arrest warrants against the rebel leadership to be dropped.
“We can only approach the ICC with something tangible. That is to say, after agenda item number five is signed by Joseph Kony’s team in Juba and the government of Uganda’s team, that would mean that there would be disarmament and demobilization and re-integration. Then the Uganda laws would handle those people who committed crimes against humanity, mainly those who were indicted, and the others who also committed crimes would also be handled,” she said.