Central Africa: Great Lakes Nations to Send War Crimes Suspects to ICC

Published on allAfrica, by Charles Kazooba, 7 December 2009.

Nairobi — In a diplomatic breakthrough, signatories to the 11-member International Conference on the Great Lakes have agreed to commit military officers suspected of crimes against humanity to The Hague.

The decision extends to heads of illegal, armed groups. It is expected to spark a renewed hunt for leaders of dissident groups that have found a safe haven in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The meeting in Kampala late last month was attended by representatives from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, DRC, Zambia, the Central African Republic, Sudan and the Republic of Congo. 

The representatives said they would compile evidence for prosecution at The Hague and other international courts of all leaders of illegal armed groups and government forces suspected to have committed war crimes.

“You can’t just say violence should stop and expect it to stop. You cannot use the argument of instability to justify impunity. We shall compile all evidence against those negative forces,” said ICGLR programme officer Nathan Byamukama.

Rwandan and Ugandan forces have lately been working with their Congolese and Central African counterparts to track down rebel groups holed up in these countries … //

… Apart from Angola, all the other members have ratified the pact, which is the only regional framework that outlaws hosting of negative forces by partner states.

It comes into force the moment eight members accede to it.

Andre Samba, the ICGLR programme officer for peace and security, said they would interview victims of the conflicts to pin down both dissidents and military chiefs implicated in crime.

It is Mr Samba who solicited evidence against Jean-Pierre Bemba — leader of a militia known as the Movement for the Liberation of Congo during DR Congo’s civil war.

Bemba is already on trial at the International Criminal Court on charges that his troops committed atrocities in the CAR when he tried to help the then-president Ange-Felix Patasse to put down a coup attempt in 2002.

Two other Congolese rebel leaders, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, are also on trial at the ICC.

Ignance Murwanashyaka, one of the Rwandan dissidents suspected of masterminding the 1994 genocide, was also arrested recently by German authorities. (full text).

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