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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Monday 18 April 2005

UGANDA: ICC could suspend northern investigations - spokesman

NAIROBI, 18 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) could suspend its ongoing investigations into possible war crimes committed in the northern Ugandan war between the government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), an ICC spokesman said.

"If it is in the interest of justice to proceed with a peace agreement, the ICC is ready to suspend its investigation," Yves Sorokobi, ICC spokesman, told IRIN on Monday by phone from The Hague.

The announcement followed a meeting between ICC chief prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo and a Ugandan delegation, which arrived at The Hague, The Netherlands, on Thursday where the ICC is headquartered.

The delegation was made up of more than 20 legislators and religious and cultural leaders from the Acholi, Lango and Teso regions, which have been most affected by the 19-year-old war.

Moreno-Ocampo was reported by international media as saying if a solution to ending the violence was found, and continuing the investigation did not serve the interests of justice, then the ICC would stop the probe.

"The prosecutor was putting in simple terms what has always been the policy of the ICC," Sorokobi added. "Any decision to suspend the investigation depends on judicial review and must be carried out according to specified guidelines. Article 53 of the Rome Statute [of the ICC] covers such a situation."

The Ugandan leaders had expressed concern that the ICC's investigation was hampering the ongoing negotiations between the government and the rebels and was counter-productive to peace in the north.

"To start war crimes investigations for the sake of justice at a time when the war is not yet over, risks having, in the end, neither justice nor peace delivered," Gulu's Catholic archdiocese's Justice and Peace Commission said in a statement from the northern Ugandan district.

In July 2004, following a request by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, the ICC initiated investigations into possible crimes committed during the war between government troops and the LRA.

Recently, the ICC announced plans to issue arrest warrants for LRA commander-in-chief, Joseph Kony, and several other high-ranking rebels.

Sorokobi told IRIN: "The ICC continually assesses the developments on the ground in all its investigations, and if it becomes apparent that continuing the investigation is not in the interests of justice, the necessary action will be taken."

The chief prosecutor was reported as saying, however, that there was no possibility of immunity from prosecution for war criminals, stating that while the investigation could be reopened years after its suspension, "immunity is not possible".

The LRA has subjected civilians in the north to mutilation, rape, abduction, torture and random killings in a war that started in 1988. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than one and half million more displaced, according to UN agencies. Relief groups have described it as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.


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