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UN chief wants LRA leaders prosecuted

By | December 21st 2009

GENEVA — Leaders of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army must be brought to justice for carrying attacks of deliberate brutality in neighbouring Sudan and Congo, the top UN human rights official said on Monday.

Launching two reports on investigations into a series of assaults on civilians, including babies, in the past year in the African neighbours, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said it was critical that LRA leaders be tried in international court for what may be crimes against humanity.

"The brutality employed during the attacks was consistent, deliberate and egregious," she said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague in 2005 issued war crimes warrants for LRA Commander-In-Chief Joseph Kony and other senior LRA commanders, but they remain in hiding.

Both reports, produced by Pillay's office, called for cooperation with the ICC, including from governments in the region, in the arrest and surrender the LRA leaders accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

"The attacks have left a legacy of trauma, both individual and collective, and those affected continue to live in fear of their lives," Pillay said, stressing that security forces in Congo were ill-equipped to protect civilians from roving bands of Ugandan fighters.

Rapes, killings, lootings and other abuses led to mass displacement in southern Sudan and eroded confidence in the police and army in the oil-producing region that was still recovering from more than two decades of civil war, said Pillay, a former UN war crimes judge from South Africa.

In the UN report on Congo, a producer of gold, coffee, sugar and palm oil, investigators detailed synchronised LRA attacks, mutilations and rapes that killed at least 1,200 people between September 2008 and June 2009.

Widespread violations

"Women and girls were often raped before being killed, and many of those who were abducted were forced to marry LRA members, subjected to sexual slavery, or both," the report said.

"These attacks and systematic and widespread human rights violations carried out by the LRA ... may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity," it concluded.

The UN peacekeeping force in Congo has put its soldiers on high alert after reports that LRA rebels threatened to carry out mass killings like those they conducted last Christmas, when hundreds of civilians were slaughtered.

The LRA was founded in the late 1980s in Uganda but their brutal, two-decade rebellion that displaced 2 million Ugandans has in recent years spilled into southern Sudan, eastern Congo and the Central African Republic.

Their sporadic attacks across the region have intensified since a peace process broke down last year.

LRA guerrillas also increased their activities following a Ugandan-led multinational strike on bases in Congo, which took place after two years of negotiations with LRA leader Kony collapsed when he refused to sign a peace deal.

The U.N. report on Sudan covers attacks between December 2008 and March 2009, during which at least 81 civilians in the country's south were killed, with others including children and infants injured, mutilated, raped and abducted.

Graphic accounts included testimony from a Sudanese man who found the mutilated body of a fellow villager whose leg had been severed, jaw dislocated and teeth pulled out.

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has said Kony would never sign a peace deal and should be found and arrested. Kony, a self-styled prophet, has said he will surrender only if the ICC warrants are withdrawn.




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