Friday, October 14, 2005

ICC Prosecutor: Sudan cooperates in Ugandan LRA rebel leader case

From The Guardian Friday October 14, 2005:

Associated Press Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - Sudan is cooperating with the International Criminal Court in its pursuit of the first suspect indicted by the court - the leader of a feared rebel group - the tribunal's chief prosecutor said Thursday. The Ugandan rebel leader is being sought in three countries.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told The Associated Press in an interview that the court is also studying Sudan's efforts to prosecute Sudanese accused of war crimes in the troubled Darfur region. Sudan has rejected efforts by the court to investigate in Darfur.

While Sudan and the court differ over Darfur, Khartoum is cooperating in the case of Joseph Kony, one of five top Lord's Resistance Army members named in a sealed indictment compiled by prosecutors of the permanent war crimes court. Warrants for their arrests have been issued in Uganda, Congo and Sudan.

The armed group has waged war against the Ugandan government for 19 years, killing thousands of civilians and displacing as many as 1.9 million. It has in the past been backed by Sudan.

"We believe Sudan is ready to cooperate with Uganda in the arrest of Kony,'' Moreno-Ocampo said. "They cooperate with our work. Today they are doing what we are requesting.''

"The arrest warrant will help to reduce political support and financial support. ... This way they will be isolated,'' he said.

Moreno-Ocampo made the comments after meeting with diplomats in The Hague, including representatives from Sudan.

He said he hoped the court's first cases can go to trial in 2006.

Sudan once backed the LRA, even as Uganda supported the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Army in its civil war with the Sudanese government. But Sudan and Uganda normalized relations in 2001, Sudan's southern civil war ended in January and the SPLM joined a national unity government, and Ugandan troops have since been allowed to operate in some parts of southern Sudan against the LRA.

Human rights groups say the Lord's Resistance Army has over the years abducted more than 30,000 children, forcing them to become fighters, porters or concubines. The rebels have killed thousands of civilians, but appears to have no clear political agenda.

The conflict has displaced an estimated 1.9 million civilians in northern Uganda, according to Human Rights Watch. The New York-based group alleges that the government forces have also committed crimes against civilians.

The International Criminal Court was established in July 2002 and is mandated to prosecute war crimes in the 99 countries which have ratified its founding treaty, the Rome Statute. It cannot prosecute crimes before the days of its inception.

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