NEW YORK - January 29 - The International Criminal Court (ICC) has taken an important step toward opening its first investigation, the Coalition for an International Criminal Court (Coalition) said today. Following the referral by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni of the situation concerning the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo announced that there is sufficient basis to "start planning for the first investigation." Several steps are required for a formal investigation to be launched.
"Today's announcement by Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo is extremely important; it is now the duty of the Prosecutor to search for the truth about atrocities committed in northern Uganda," said David Donat Cattin, Legal Advisor for the International Law and Human Rights program at Parliamentarians for Global Action. "Other states facing similar situations should follow Uganda's precedent in welcoming ICC proceedings," he said.
For nearly two decades, conflict between the Ugandan government and the LRA has resulted in an extensive pattern of serious human rights abuses. The ICC has received reports of summary executions, torture and mutilation, recruitment of child soldiers, child sexual abuse, rape, forcible displacement, and looting and destruction of civilian property. Reports by non-governmental organizations detail the heavy toll this conflict has taken on children, who are abducted from villages to serve as child soldiers.
"State cooperation is critical to the success of the Court," said William Pace, convenor of the Coalition. "This referral demonstrates that the Court will be able to function effectively in one of the regions where human rights abuses are at their worst," he said. A case can be brought before the ICC either through a referral by an ICC State Party, a referral by the Security Council, or a proprio motu investigation by the Prosecutor. The referral by Uganda is reportedly the first from any of the ICC's 92 States Parties.
"This step by the Prosecutor gives the potential for the ICC to obtain justice for victims of the most horrible crimes," said Dr. Frances D'Souza, executive director of Redress, the London-based victims' rights organization. "We will be closely monitoring this important development and the impact it will have on the many victims in Uganda and elsewhere," she said.
This announcement by the Prosecutor follows reports that the ICC is monitoring alleged abuses in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.