War crimes tribunal issues warrant for Ugandan rebels

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The Independent Online

The warrants were issued on 8 July and sent to the government in Kampala, but were kept secret until yesterday to protect witnesses and victims.

The warrants named the LRA's leader Joseph Kony, who has led a brutal uprising in Uganda for 19 years, and four of his top commanders. Mr Kony faces 33 counts, including 12 counts of crimes against humanity for rape and sexual enslavement. The other 21 counts cover war crimes, including attacks against civilians and the murder and forced enlistment in the army of children.

His four deputies have each been charged with between four and 32 counts.

Mr Kony and several others are believed to be in southern Sudan. The suspects are accused of "a pattern of brutalisation of civilians" including murder, and the abduction of children for use as sex slaves, fighters, and porters.

"This is a historic step which opens doors to justice for people of northern Uganda who have suffered horribly for nearly 20 years under the hands of the LRA," said Richard Dicker, head of the international justice programme at Human Rights Watch.

The court in The Hague has no police force or army of its own and will rely on states to detain suspects and transfer them to the Netherlands for trial. The chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said that the Sudanese government was co-operating with his pursuit of Mr Kony.

The Lord's Resistance Army is believed to have abducted more than 30,000 children, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than a million people to flee their homes.