Indict Museveni for war crimes – says Lawyer

By George Murumba

30th April 2012:

Gen. Yoweri Museveni: Is he a war criminal?

A top Ugandan consultant in international criminal and humanitarian law has called on The Hague based International Criminal Court [ICC] to investigate and indict President Yoweri Museveni for war crimes and crimes against humanity linked to the president’s alleged support for Congolese warlords Thomas Lubanga and Jean Bemba, as well as for alleged war crimes committed against civilians in northern Uganda.

In his reaction to the conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, Dr Obote Odora exclusively told Uganda Correspondent that the Judgement in Charles Taylor’s case “…provides guidelines and thresholds…for assessing the participation of the Uganda People Defence Forces (UPDF) and its leadership in the conduct of armed conflicts in northern Uganda and in the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC].”

In his lengthy argument for Museveni’s indictment, Dr Odora said there are credible reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, Office of the United Nations Humanitarian Affairs, among others, implicating the UPDF, its military and political leaders in serious human rights abuses in northern Uganda and the DRC.

“…The UPDF and its leadership have committed atrocities in northern Uganda alongside the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leadership. The victims of the massacres, of rape, other sexual violence and torture in northern Uganda are deserving of justice.” Odora said.

Dr Odora alleges further that on the orders of the UPDF’s Commander-in-Chief President Yoweri Museveni, at least two million civilians in northern Uganda were herded into ‘protected’ camps guarded by the UPDF. Within the confines of the camps, Odora alleges, “…women and girls were raped, young boys kidnapped by…the LRA, and children died of malnutrition because of the UPDF’s deliberate policy” of denying medicine to the sick.

All these acts and omissions, Odora says, “…go beyond mere aiding and abetting.  With specific reference to the UPDF’s involvement in the DRC, Dr Odora said there is credible evidence in the public domain which suggests that “…the UPDF and its leadership provided to convicted war criminal Thomas Lubanga arms, ammunitions, communication equipment and financial support.”

He also claimed that senior UPDF officers, with the knowledge and approval of the UPDF Commander-in-Chief, “…assisted and supported the recruitment and deployment of child soldiers for Thomas Lubanga’s forces and also fought alongside Lubanga in the DRC.”

Dr Odora further argued that until the leadership of the UPDF are investigated and prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Taylor’s judgement, while it reinforces the theory that Heads of State are held accountable for war crimes and other serious international crimes will only remain a pipe dream.

“…Taylor’s judgement tells us that with leadership comes not just power and authority, but also responsibility and accountability. To reinforce the Taylor precedent, it would be helpful for the ICC to investigates and indict the UPDF Commander-in-Chief for crimes committed in northern Uganda and the DRC.” the international criminal law consultant said.

The government of Uganda has however, on numerous occasions, vehemently denied any criminal liability.  It has also argued that President Museveni cannot be held liable for crimes allegedly committed before the Rome Statute that created the ICC came into force in 2002.

Read Dr Odora’s full analysis our opinions section under the title: Lessons for Uganda from Taylor’s conviction.  END.  Please login to every Monday to read our top stories and anytime mid-week for our news updates.

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