Kampala, 20 June 2007 (FH) - The peace process in progress between the Ugandan government and rebels puts the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a difficult position because it has issued arrest warrants against the rebel leaders.

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The withdrawal of these warrants is one of the conditions of Joseh Kony and his four fellow accused to lay down their weapons. In The Hague, where ICC is located, many are those that want to believe it.

At a recent visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Bruno Cathala, the Registrar of the court, hammered that the ICC would not withdraw the arrest warrants issued against Joseph Kony, the Ugandan rebel leader and his four co-accused; arrest warrants for war crimes and crimes against humanity in particular. "The ICC does not let itself be influenced by political processes and is in no way under the authority of politicians", specified the Registrar.

This statement demonstrates the complexity of the relations between the Ugandan state and the International Criminal Court. After having invited the ICC to inquire into the crimes committed in the north of the country by the rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the Ugandan government has been, for the past few months, leaning towards the withdrawal by the Court of the Ugandan case.

In fact, incapable of neutralizing the rebels after 20 years of conflict, which caused many massacres, displacement of almost two million people and inexpressible sufferings, Kampala entered in, July 2006, into peace talks with the rebels. The negotiations have taken place in Juba, the capital of south Sudan. Drained by a conflict that they have no more ambition, nor the means, of winning, the rebels are ready to lay down their weapons, provided that their leaders are not brought forth before an international jurisdiction. So, this time like never before, peace seems within reach in the northern Uganda.

However, explains Ruhakana Rugunda, the Ugandan Interior Minister and chief negotiator of the government: "we have only one objective in these talks: to bring back peace to the northern Uganda ". And if he recognizes that peace and justice must walk together, like others, this close acquaintance of President Museveni estimates that justice can be done in various ways.

In Juba for a few weeks, the negotiators have examined, in particular, the possibility of prosecuting the persons responsible for crimes committed during the war before traditional courts, the Mat-oput, cousin of the gacacas used in Rwanda.

The Court cannot, however, remain deaf to the situation that is taking place in Juba and in Uganda. If Kampala has not officially requested for the case to be withdrawn, calling upon the provisions of its Statute (article 17, 1a and 19, 2a and b) it could do it in an immediate future. Contrary to the ICT, the ICC does not have primacy over national jurisdictions, it is more complementary.

© Hirondelle News Agency