Uganda strikes deal with LRA on trials

The Ugandan government has struck a deal with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) about where their leaders will be tried. LRA leaders accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes would be tried by a national court under the terms of the deal.

Many of the people have been charged with horrific crimes – and international warrants have been out for their arrest for more than two and a half years.

As a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, Uganda has the duty to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its investigations and prosecutions. In particular, it must cooperate in arresting and surrendering any person charged by the Court, without delay.

Arrest warrants for Joseph Kony and the others who are still alive were issued on 8 July 2005 and Uganda is obliged under international law to arrest and surrender them regardless of any agreement reached in the peace process. They are also obliged to bring to justice all those responsible for crimes under international law in fair trials without the death penalty.

The Rome Statute provides that, once the men have been surrendered to the ICC, the Ugandan government may then apply to have the cases returned to Ugandan courts. However, it would be up to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC to decide whether Ugandan courts are able and willing to genuinely investigate and prosecute the LRA suspects named in the warrants.

Amnesty International has called for LRA members charged with crimes under international law to be surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) immediately.

“It is not acceptable for the Ugandan government and the LRA to make a deal that circumvents international law,” said Christopher Keith Hall, Senior Legal Adviser in Amnesty International’s International Justice Project. “They must be handed over to the ICC so that their guilt or innocence can be determined once and for all. The people of Uganda deserve no less.

“At the moment, we have no evidence to suggest that even a new court established in Uganda to deal with these cases would be able and willing to do so in fair proceedings that are not a sham.”

During approximately 20 years of fighting between the LRA and the Ugandan government, soldiers on both sides have murdered tens of thousands of people and forcibly displaced about two million people.