Saturday, June 11, 2005

ICC Prosecutor targets LRA leaders including Joseph Kony

June 11 2005 Paris IOL Central Africa report:

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, is seeking his first arrest warrants, for the head of Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army and one of his deputies, a press report said on Saturday.

The French daily Le Monde, quoting unidentified court sources, said the warrants targeted LRA leader Joseph Kony and another top official of the group who was not named.

The warrants, the first since the court in The Hague was established to deal with cases of warcrimes and genocide in 2002, have to be approved by the ICC's judges before they can be issued, Le Monde noted.

Moreno Ocampo had said in April he could suspend, but not drop entirely, planned prosecutions of LRA rebels to enable peace moves with the Ugandan government to succeed.

"I will stop but I will not close," he said after talks with northern Ugandan officials. "Timing is possible but immunity is not possible."

The ICC mandate allows prosecutors to decide whether going ahead with a case would serve justice, taking into account all circumstances, including the gravity of the crimes and victims' interests.

The LRA has been fighting President Yoweri Museveni's secular government since 1988, ostensibly to replace with one based on the biblical Ten Commandments.

The rebellion has killed tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, and displaced more than 1,6 million others.

The LRA is notorious for its brutality towards the civilian population in the region, many of whom have been killed, maimed or abducted. Kidnapped children are pressed into service as soldiers or sex slaves.

In July 2004, the ICC opened an investigation into atrocities committed by the LRA with an eye to prosecuting its leaders and senior commanders.

Earlier this year, the court announced that it would probably issue arrest warrants for a first batch of LRA officials at some time this year, sparking concerns in war-shattered northern Uganda that the prosecution would undermine halting peace efforts.

Apart from the Uganda rebellion, the court is investigating alleged war crimes in Democratic Republic of Congo and, most recently, the Darfur region of Sudan.

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