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Representatives for Wanted Ugandan Rebels Visit

International Herald Tribune
March 10, 2008

Ugandan rebel representatives met with officials from the International Criminal Court on Monday to discuss "procedural issues" in the war crimes case against the group's leaders, the court said. Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, and three of his top commanders are wanted by the Hague-based court on charges of murder, rape, mutilation and the forced enlistment of child soldiers. But they are demanding the international charges be dropped as part of a peace deal to end a nearly 20-year insurgency in northern Uganda.

The world's first permanent war crimes court said in a statement that rebel representatives were meeting with members of its registry to discuss "procedural issues related to the legal representation of those accused before the ICC, as well as procedure and time limits for the filing of documentation and materials with the registry." The court stressed it would not be discussing specifics of the case in the meeting and prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has said he will not meet with the rebel envoys. "As a neutral organ that facilitates fair trial, the registry does not engage in substantive discussions with any of the parties on the merits of cases before the court," the statement said.

The rebel representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.The Lord's Resistance Army was notorious for mutilating victims by cutting off their tongues and lips. The rebels abducted thousands of children and forced them to become fighters or sex slaves. Thousands of people have been killed since the group took up arms in 1986 in northern Uganda.

The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Kony and four of his senior commanders in July 2005. One commander has since died and the charges against him withdrawn. Kony later killed another of those indicted, his top deputy Vincent Otti, saying Otti lacked discipline, but the court has not yet dropped the case against Otti. Under an agreement signed late last month by negotiators from the rebels and the government, Uganda pledged to set up a special unit at Uganda's High Court to try those charged with serious crimes during the conflict. Those accused of lesser crimes would be judged according to northern Uganda's traditional justice system, known as Mato Put. Judges in The Hague have asked Uganda to detail how it will put on trial those responsible for atrocities during the conflict with the LRA and what Kampala believes such trials would mean for ICC arrest warrants for Kony and the other LRA leaders.

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