By Josephine Maseruka
A Ugandan judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC), Daniel Nsereko, yesterday said the traditional justice system, locally known as mato-oput, cannot be applied to suspects of crimes against humanity.
â€œCrimes against humanity, genocide, aggression against other states and war crimes are internationally condemned and cannot be tried by traditional courts but by the ICC,â€ said Nsereko.
He was giving a key-note address at a two-day workshop on the implementation of the Rome Statute, held at the parliamentary conference hall.
Of the 109 states that ratified the Rome Statute which established the ICC, over 30 are from Africa, including Uganda.
Nsereko, who is also the president of the ICC appeals department, explained that even locally, there are certain crimes that cannot be tried in traditional courts and are referred to the courts of law.
â€œYou cannot expect someone who caused the death of 100 people to be tried in a traditional court if you are looking for justice to be done.â€
Joseph Kakooza of the Uganda Law Reform Commission had suggested that the traditional courts be included in the ICC Bill if justice was to be seen to be done by the people in northern Uganda.
Nsereko explained that crimes against humanity are not committed against Ugandans alone but against the entire international community.
â€œYou must convince the international community that justice was done and that the punishment is proportionate with the crime,â€ he advised those advocating for mato-oput.
Uganda committed itself to enact an ICC law by September this year, according to the Speaker, Edward Ssekandi. This is in preparation of the ICC Review Conference, to be hosted in Uganda in June next year.
â€œUganda should have domesticated the Rome Statute, which will be one of our countryâ€™s contributions against impunity and crimes against humanity,â€™ Ssekandi stated.
Nsereko dispelled fears by Africans that the ICC is an imposition by western nations on the sovereignty of African states.
â€œAfrica needs the ICC if it is to put an end to the mass violence that continues to take thousands of lives every year. In the eastern and central African regions, there is no year that passes without a conflict or a refugee influx.â€
He said lasting peace cannot be achieved without justice, â€œwhich calls for trying perpetuators, some of whom are powerful individuals and considered untouchable.â€
Nsereko argued that the three African states which referred cases to the ICC, Uganda, DR Congo and the Central African Republic, did so voluntarily.
He said Sudan was taken to the ICC by the UN Security Council because atrocities committed in the Darfur war were considered crimes against humanity.
He regretted that of the 13 indictments by the ICC, only four had been secured, of which one voluntarily surrendered. Among those indicted are LRA boss Joseph Kony and his commanders, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen.
â€œWe are very frustrated because states that should be helping the ICC to effect warrants are reluctant.
However, we have thousands of people who want to be witnesses in all the referral cases presented to the ICC.â€