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Museveni Says Uganda Rebels Will Not Face International Criminal Court

By Tendai Maphosa
11 March 2008

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni says as part of the peace agreement between his government and the Lord's Resistance Army, the rebels indicted by the International Criminal Court are to be tried in Uganda under a traditional judiciary process. Tendai Maphosa attended a press conference by President Museveni in London and filed this report for VOA.

President Yoweri Museveni told reporters the International Criminal Court issued its arrest warrants for the rebel leaders at his government's request as they were waging their insurgency from outside Uganda. Now that peace has been agreed, he says the rebels are to be tried at home.

"What we have said in the agreement is that instead of using this formal Western type of justice we are going to use the traditional justice, we have got a traditional blood settlement mechanism whereby the one who committed a mistake asks for forgiveness and then there is some compensation done to the victims and then that settles the accountability," he said. "In that case we can approach the ICC and say those people whom we had brought to your attention are under our jurisdiction, therefore we would like to withdraw our complaint."

Mr. Museveni said those indicted by the International Criminal Court and other LRA fighters would, under the traditional justice system, avoid going to jail. The president added that those victimized by the Lord's Resistance Army would be compensated. He conceded that some of the victims may not be happy with the arrangement.

"Of course they may not be happy, but some of the communities are the ones who asked us to take that route," he said.

ICC arrest warrants for rebel leader Joseph Kony and four others were issued in 2005 for crimes against Humanity and War Crimes committed in Uganda since July 2002. Two of those wanted by the ICC are known to have since died.

President Museveni would not confirm speculation that Kony would attend the signing ceremony in Uganda.

The International Criminal Court did not respond to VOA's request for a statement regarding Mr. Museveni's comments.

But last month, the human rights body Amnesty International said that under the terms of an agreement, known as the Rome Statute, the Ugandan government had to arrest and surrender the wanted men to the International Criminal Court . Then, the government or the arrested persons could argue that Uganda is able and willing to try them in a fair trial which is not designed to shield them from criminal responsibility.

When this was brought to Mr. Museveni's attention he said his legal people would deal with the procedures.

The arrest warrants were a major sticking point in the peace negotiations between the government and the rebels.

The agreement is set for signing before the end of the month and would bring an end to approximately 20 years of fighting between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government. Soldiers on both sides have been accused of killing tens of thousands of people and forcibly displacing about two million more.

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