THE United Nations International Criminal Court will begin investigations into terrorist Lordâ€™s Resistance Army crimes against humanity in June.
International arrest warrants for LRA leaders could be issued in September for prosecutions to commence early in 2005.
Making the landmark announcements, the ICCâ€™s special prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo said this was the first case that the court, established on July 17 1998, was going to deal with at the request of a sovereign state. Uganda referred the conflict to the ICC in December 2003.
Ocampo addressed a joint news conference with President Yoweri Museveni in London on Thursday night. Museveni invited the ICC to probe the LRA for terrorism and committing the most barbaric atrocities against Ugandans.
â€œThey should also answer for
kidnapping children and conscripting them into the LRA and for raping young girls and infecting them with HIV/AIDS,â€ Museveni said. Ocampo said these terrorists use telephones, buy and receive weapons from individuals and countries that could be traced.
Museveni said he was grateful that Ocampo had received Ugandaâ€™s complaint and was willing to act and apprehend the Kony terrorists.
â€œThe Uganda Government is using its capacity to fight these terrorists within the countryâ€™s borders but those beyond our reach deep inside our neighbouring countries will be dealt with by the special prosecutor,â€ Museveni said.
In the first indication of Government seeking international assistance to bring an end to the 18-year conflict, Museveni said: â€œWe have approached the Special Criminal Prosecutor of the United Nations (UN) to prosecute the terrorists attacking Uganda from Sudan.â€
Museveni said the LRA inside Sudan must be dealt with by the UN special prosecutor and called upon all resources to be availed to get these people and ensure impunity is erased. The UNSP judged there was sufficient evidence to initiate planning for preliminary investigations by the ICC.
â€œA key issue will be locating and arresting the LRA leadership. This will require the active co-operation of states and international institutions in supporting efforts of the Ugandan authorities...This will require the concerted support of the International community - Uganda and the Court cannot do this alone,â€ a statement read.
Ocampo said: â€œBecause we are an international prosecutor we cannot go to the country. In this case the decision of the President of Uganda to refer the case to the ICC opens the door. This is the solution to the jurisdiction problem. This is the first case where a state party has invited the ICC. We assume we can start investigations in Uganda in two or three months time with maybe a trial in 2005.â€
He hoped to receive the support of the many NGOs in the region to collect evidence and prosecute the suspects. He added that the Uganda case would be a good first test for the commitment of the international community to protect citizens in war.
Asked whether the Sudanese authorities would co-operate with their investigations, in spite of some elements allegedly arming and supporting the LRA, Ocampo said: â€œThe case is so awful I donâ€™t think any state would be against co-operating...I believe all the states in the world would co-operate these terrorist attacks.â€
Kony probe begins June