By Anne Mugisa
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has assured the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) top commanders that they will get a fair trial and will not be executed.
The ICC said that information reaching its Office of the Prosecutor indicates that members of the LRA are being misled that they will be killed or tortured by the ICC if they try to escape. The Court did not say who was misleading the LRA thus.
The Court reiterated that it has investigated and issued pending warrants against only top LRA commanders, Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen.
"If these commanders surrender to ICC, they will not be tortured or killed. All their human rights will be protected and the case against them will be in accordance with accepted international human rights standards," the Court stated in a statement issued Monday evening.
The warrants of arrest against Kony, Odhiambo and Ongwen were issued in 2005 by the ICC judges, for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in northern Uganda. The crimes included murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement, rape attack against civilian population, pillage, forced enlistment of children, other inhumane acts.
The ICC statement said that the three will have a fair, impartial and public justice that respects all their rights, including the right to be represented by a lawyer of their choice, and to present evidence in their defence. And if convicted, the statement added, they will not be sentenced to death because the ICC does not impose the death penalty.
The ICC explained that the three commanders should choose between handing themselves over to face a fair justice process at the ICC or remain fugitives knowing well that military forces from many countries are looking for them. It pointed out that these military forces may corner, capture, and possibly wound them in the process if they do not surrender if they remain fugitives.
To the others who remain within the LRA ranks, the ICC urged them to abandon violence, stop committing crimes and "follow the bold steps of others before you who have returned home."
The ICC message was translated into French, Acholi, Sango, Swahili and Lingala and is meant to be transmitted in Uganda, areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Southern Sudan where the LRA remains active.