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UN accuses Uganda rebels of war crimes in DRC and Sudan

[JURIST] The UN on Monday called for leaders of the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [BBC backgrounder] to be apprehended [UN News Centre report] for war crimes in southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between September 2008 and June 2009. The LRA is accused of killing, raping, and mutilating more than 1,200 men, women, and children, abducting at least 1,400 civilians, and displacing almost 300,000 others. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for the rebel leaders to be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] after releasing two joint reports [text, PDF] with the UN Missions in Sudan and the DRC::

These attacks and systematic and widespread human rights violations carried out by the LRA since mid-September 2008 against Congolese civilians during the armed conflict may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity for which there is no statute of limitations under international law. It should be recalled that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines certain human rights violations as crimes against humanity. These acts, committed with knowledge as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population include, inter alia, murder, torture, rape, sexual slavery and enforced disappearance of persons.

Pillay called for the international community to help apprehend LRA leaders.

In May 2008, Uganda created the High Court of Uganda [JURIST report], which will have the authority to try LRA leaders. There is speculation that the the war crimes court was created to persuade the ICC to drop arrest warrants currently out for the LRA leaders, a conclusion supported by the LRA's refusal to sign a final peace agreement [JURIST report] unless the warrants are suspended. The ICC has repeatedly called for the arrest of the men, and has not conceded to Ugandan requests that the charges be dropped [JURIST reports]. The ICC issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony and his deputies in October 2005 for 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Ugandan citizens including murder, rape, sexual enslavement, and conscription of children. The LRA has been notorious for its violent attacks on Ugandan citizens since its formation in 1986, and in recent years has expanded into Sudan and the DRC after being driven out of Uganda. Kony has insisted that he his not guilty [JURIST report] of the atrocities attributed to him, describing himself as a "freedom fighter" rather than a criminal.

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