The Global Citizen: Uganda
Last October, President Obama announced the deployment of 100 United States military advisors to Central Africa. Obama hoped to combat the remaining Lord Resistance Army forces that have committed atrocities throughout the region, primarily in northern Uganda, for the past twenty-five years. The year prior, a billed called the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act bolstered "comprehensive U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability." Moreover, a viral video launched by the US-based advocacy group Invisible Children last March briefly made the fight against the LRA a national conversation, but attention has since returned to anemically low-levels.
Today, the International Crimes Division court in Gulu, Uganda began its first ever war crimes trial for the Lord's Resistance Army commander, Thomas Kwoyela. The LRA commander is being charged with 53 counts of willful killing, hostage taking, destruction of property, and causing injury. He is also accused of leading village raids, such as an attack on a Congolese village in 1996.
Formed in 1987, the Lord's Resistance Army began its reign of terror in northern Uganda by abducting young children to become child soldiers and committing brutal acts of violence against innocent civilians. Over the years, the rebel army has spread to neighboring countries, particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. In 2005 the International Criminal Court indicted the LRA's leader, Joseph Kony and his closest advisors for committing crimes against humanity. The international community has not been able to capture Kony, especially after two failed attempts at a peace process in 2006 and 2008 in Juba, South Sudan.
By: Ariela Blatter
It's a historic moment here in Kampala, Uganda. Japan, after making the following statement against the adoption of the crime of aggression, stands aside to allow all other 84 states to move forward with. Therefore, the Court now has a definition of aggression, and a clear explanation of how to prosecute these crimes- but those eagerly awaiting the prospect of ending impunity for engaging in illegal war will have to wait seven more years and see if this was the right decision.
Japan (paraphrased): Japan had been promoting a ICC that can act with total confidence of international community. It is my sad duty to inform you that the draft resolution you are posing now does not live up to consensus you are presenting. This delegation continues to have serous doubts as to the legal intergrity of the text. This resolution would undermine the Rome Statute and all it represents. It would cause a difficulty in our relationship with the ICC. We have concerns with this draft resoution, we have a serious problem with Article 15.5 (application to non-state parties) because it unjustifiably justifies aggressive acts of nationals of non-states parties. It is with a heavy heart that I declare if all the other delegations are prepared to stand by this, Japan will not stand in way of consensus.
The draft resolution on the definition of the crime of aggression is now adopted by consensus!
As diplomats meet in Uganda to consider adding the crime of aggression to the jurisdiction of the ICC, it is time to remember historic American principles.
David Kaye warns in his June 1 Op-Ed article that bringing the crime of aggression within its ambit may erode support for the International Criminal Court. It is true that the ICC has done an admirable job in the years since its founding in holding trials for those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Without the ICC, these individuals, accused of the most heinous mass crimes, might not ever face justice and punishment.
The ICC is an institution that our nation's founders would have recognized. The ICC springs from the same European Enlightenment principles that informed America's founding, including the idea that there are certain basic rights afforded to all people. Although the United States has not joined the ICC, the treaty that created the court relies on principles and ideas long promoted by American thinkers and lawyers. Adding the crime of aggression to the ICC's jurisdiction follows in the tradition of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II. The U.S. actively participated in the formation and successful operation of the more recent special purpose international tribunals for Sierra Leone, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
A step in the right direction!
On April 28, 2010, the members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs voted by voice vote on S. 1067 the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009. A voice vote is a voting method used by the U.S. House of Representatives in which a vote is taken on legislation by responding verbally. The decision is made by the chair, although it can be challenged.
The bill is summarized here by the Congressional Research Service:
Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese President who is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, has cancelled his planned trip to Uganda. Previously, Bashir had intended to attend a Smart Partnership Conference in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. However, Uganda, having ratified the ICC treaty, is legally obligated to arrest Bashir should he enter the nation. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has now reached an agreement with Bashir, calling off the visit by the Sudanese President for fear of causing a harsh diplomatic incident.
The initial announcement that Bashir would be visiting the ICC State Party had created outrage from various organizations, and a reminder from the ICC that Uganda had an obligation to arrest al-Bashir. Joseph Were of the Ugandan newspaper, The Independent, wrote that if Uganda did not arrest Bashir upon his arrival, it "might leave Uganda tied in hypocritical tinsel."
Omar al-Bashir had previously stated that the ICC arrest warrant would not affect his life in any way. It is now apparent that Bashir has been proven wrong.
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