15 October 2005

Uganda: Kony Faces Trial On 33 Charges in World Court

Kampala — The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel leader, Joseph Kony, has been indicted on 33 charges before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The court recently issued an international arrest warrant against Kony and four other LRA top commanders Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen, and Raska Lukwiya.

Releasing details of the arrest warrant yesterday, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Acampo said the 33 counts are on Kony's individual criminal liability.

Twelve of the counts are crimes against humanity, which include murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement and rape.

Other crimes are inhuman acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering.

Kony would also answer 21 other counts of war crimes, which include murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population.

Others are pillaging, inducing rape and forced enlisting of children into the rebel ranks.

Kony has led a 19-year atrocious rebellion against President Yoweri Museveni's government.

Unicef estimates that more than 12,000 children have been kidnapped by the rebels based in southern Sudan and forced to become fighters, labourers and sex slaves.

Otti, who is Kony's second-in-command, has 32 charges to answer.

Eleven are crimes against humanity and 21 are war crimes.

Odhiambo is wanted to answer 10 crimes: two for crimes against humanity and eight war crimes.

Ongwen has seven charges on his head: three crimes against humanity and four war crimes.

Lukwiya is wanted to answer one crime of enslavement and three war crimes of cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally attacking a civilian population and pillaging.

The indictment covers crimes committed from June 2002 to date.

The investigation and subsequent indictment of the LRA leaders follows President Museveni's appeal to the ICC in December 2003.

Addressing a press conference at the ICC headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, Mr Moreno-Ocampo said it was not a responsibility of the governments of Uganda, Sudan and DR Congo, where the LRA has bases, to execute the arrest order with help from the international community.

Local journalists listened in to the press conference through a telephone link organised at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala and asked the Chief Prosecutor, his deputy, Ms Fatau Bensouda and the investigation team leader, Mr Martin Witteveen some questions.

But the team was evasive in regard to details of the ICC investigations.

"I cannot explain what the state parties are doing, but I can confirm that they are working together. I know they are coordinating efforts to arrest these people and I am aware of some developments since, but I cannot reveal anything now," Ocampo said.

He only said he would give more information when the situation warrants.

"All our efforts are concentrated towards stopping violence and continued commission of serious crimes in northern Uganda. These crimes are not only affecting Uganda, but also the international community," he said.

The ICC prosecutor said the team had been investigating all the cases carefully and all the evidence would be put before the "totally impartial judges" of the court.

"Kony was abducting girls to offer them as rewards to his commanders. He has been using media exposure as a strong commander and trying to prove that his issue is political," Ocampo said.

"But all these were tricks to help him survive with his crimes for the 19 years. We have to stop him," he added.

The northern rebellion has left about 1.6 million people internally displaced from their homes in northern Uganda and are living under squalid conditions in camps where they are in dire need of medical care, food, shelter, water and clothing.

International aid workers have termed the LRA rebellion as probably the world's worst humanitarian disaster.


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