KAMPALA Uganda— Uganda broke Friday with recent vitriolic African criticism of the International Criminal Court, saying it was ready to turn over Congolese anti - government rebels to The Hague to face trial for war crimes.
Okello Oryem, the foreign affairs state minister, said Ugandan officials were awaiting from Congolese authorities a list of rebels of the March 23 Movement suspected of rape, the execution of civilians and recruiting child soldiers during a 20-month rebellion in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo that ended last November.
The suspects are among the more than 1,000 M23 insurgents currently in Ugandan custody after they fled Congo in December ahead of a United Nations-backed offensive by the Congolese army to quash the uprising, which left thousands of people dead and nearly a million displaced.
"We are ready to cooperate in the transfer of any suspects to the ICC. We are tired of being accused of harboring Congolese dissidents," Mr. Oryem said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Friday. Uganda and Rwanda were accused by U.N. investigators of supporting the rebellion, allegations they fiercely deny.
The 54-member African Union has regularly denounced the ICC, saying its prosecutions have focused disproportionately on alleged war criminals on the continent.
Last May, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn accused the court of "race hunting," and in October, the union convened a special summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to discuss the mass withdrawal of the 34 African countries who are signatories to the court.
Lambert Mende, Congo's information minister, said the Congolese government was working with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country to compile the list of suspects.
"I cannot name anyone of the list at the moment, but we are working with the ICC on the matter," Mr. Mende said by telephone from the Congolese capital Kinshasa.
A spokesman for the ICC couldn't be reached for comment.
Earlier this week, Ugandan and Congolese officials held talks in the Ugandan capital Kampala over the implementation of the peace deal reached between the insurgents and the Kinshasa government in December.
Both sides are eager to resolve the disposition of the former rebels on Ugandan soil as they seek stability along their border region, where oil companies are preparing to tap lucrative oil reserves.
Under the deal, former rebel fighters are to be granted amnesty from prosecution on charges of rebellion, pending a U.N.-backed screening to determine which insurgents should face trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity
Bosco Ntaganda, the former head of M23, last year turned himself in to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, and requested his transfer to The Hague, where is now awaiting trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The ICC, which was set up in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, is currently looking into allegations of war crimes in eight countries, all in Africa.
Four of the investigations are the result of requests by Uganda, the DRC, the Central African Republic and Mali. The U.N. Security Council asked for two others, in Libya and Darfur, Sudan.
Uganda to transfer DRC rebels to ICC