11 March 2009

Uganda: Govt Has No Power to Try Top LRA Commanders - ICC

Kampala — THE International Criminal Court (ICC) has said it is its mandate and not that of the Government to determine where LRA rebel chief Joseph Kony will be tried.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the court said it found it "appropriate to dispel the ambiguity" created by the Government on the judicial venue of the LRA case.

The court said the proposal by the Government that the four indicted fugitives would be tried in the special division of the High Court had been made irrelevant "in the absence of the final peace agreement and the ongoing military offensive against the rebels in the DR Congo.

"These statements seem to imply that the relevance of the agreement vis-à-vis the persons sought by the court may resurface once the military hostilities were to cease and a final peace agreement were signed," the court said.

Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen were indicted by the court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The statement was jointly signed by pre-trial Chamber II presiding judge, Justice Mauro Politi and judges Hans-Peter Kaul and Ekaterina Trendafilova.

At the height of the Juba peace talks between the LRA and the Government, it was hoped that the rebels would be tried in Uganda and not at The Hague.

However, Kony refused to sign the final peace agreement and a joint military operation by the UPDF, the Sudanese army (SPLA) and Congolese forces was launched to rout the rebels from their hideout in the Garamba jungles of the DR Congo.

The ICC said it would be premature and inappropriate to assess the features envisaged for the special division of the High Court of Uganda and its legal framework to try the indictees.

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