GULU-UGANDA: War victims of the over twenty-year old rebellion of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda should not expect “reparation” from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
This was stated by a senior Professor of Law in Uganda, Dr. Brian Kalenge, during a briefing of stakeholders meeting on ICC, held in Gulu town on Friday, January 15, 2016.
“The ICC only pays reparation after a suspect has been pronounced guilty by the Court. They pay reparation to the victims for which the suspect was held. In the case of LRA war, it will only be for crimes that Dominic Ongwen is being held. Ongwen cannot be held accountable for all the war crimes committed in northern Uganda by other LRA commanders”. He said.
The meeting was held by the ICC Outreach Program to ensure public access to adequate information on the ICC proceedings, engage grassroots communities to inform them about victim’s rights, to explain judiciary proceedings, answer questions, address concerns and foster realistic expectations about ICC work, among others.
The ICC is a permanent international court established to investigate, prosecute and try individuals accused of committing the most resinous crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Currently the ICC has 123 member states and it currently is investigating on 28 ongoing in 8 different situations around the world.
Uganda joined the Court on June 11, 2002 and in December 2003, referred the LRA situation to the ICC to investigate. On July 8, 2005, it issued arrest warrants to five top LRA commanders: Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Raska Lokwiya, Okot Odiambo and Dominic Ongwen. Of these five commanders, only Dominic Ongwen is in custody of the court and only Joseph Kony is still at large, two confirmed dead and the third case, Vincent Otii, is yet to be confirmed dead.
Dominic Ongwen will appear before the pre-trial judges for confirmation of charges hearing on Thursday, January 21, 2016. Initially, he faced seven charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for crimes he committed at Lukodi concentration camp in Gulu district. However on September 18, 2015, the Chief Prosecutor Ms Fatou Bensouda added sixty new charges to include gender and sexual crimes he committed in Pajule camp on October 10, 2003, Odek in April 28, 2004 and in Abok in Oyam on June 8, 2004.
Professor Kalenge told his audience that the former ICC Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo made a fundamental mistake when he sat with President Museveni in a press conference in London when he was announcing that he was issuing arrest warrants for the five top LRA commanders in 2005 minus also investigating the national Army- the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF).
“He politicized the situation in Uganda by inviting President Museveni to the press conference in London. In war, there are always two sides. Museveni is just playing the victor’s justice as we witnessed in the Second World War where the allied forces rounded up soldiers of the defeated side and prosecuted them. Did they not commit war crimes?” He said.
He said there are only two ways the people in the north can get justice and reparation. The first is to vote “wisely” in the coming presidential, parliamentary and local council elections. The second option is to take government to court over compensation for war crimes because government failed in its constitutional duty to protect the lives and properties of the people during its war with the LRA.
“The duty to protect the people and their properties lies with the state. If that duty is breached, then the State has the duty to pay reparation. If should never shift”, he said.
The cultural chief of Pageya clan, Rwot Yusuf Adek Okwonga accused government of interfering with local efforts to end the conflict in northern Uganda. He said the Amnesty Act, which was passed by government, was a local effort of the community initiated in 1997 during Acholi grand meeting (Kacoke Madit) in London. He said the arrest warrant issued in 2005 against the five top LRA commanders led to the collapse of the Juba Peace Talks.
“In November 2005, I met Kony, and convinced him to accept Peace talks for the Shake of Peace in Acholi. This is the same year that investigations against LRA, was also launched. On July 14, 2006, Peace talk was launched. Today we have peace. It was not by military strength of the Uganda army”. He complained.