The Hague, 24 November 2008 (FH) - The 108 States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided that the next revision conference of the Rome Statute will take place in Kampala, Uganda, in the first half of 2010. The central objective of this conference, which should last ten day, will relate to the crime of aggression. The states have been working for more than ten years to write the legal definition of this crime, on which the permanent Court theoretically has jurisdiction.

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If the resolution giving Uganda the status of host country was adopted by consensus, it does not have unanimity amongst the non-governmental organizations. Within the debates of the seventh assembly of the States Parties, which was held in The Hague from 14 to 21 November, the Club of the Friends of Law of Congo, a Congolese organization for the defence of human rights, was opposed to the Ugandan proposal.

Thus, the president of the association, Eugène Bakama Bope, questioned himself: "How can we speak about aggression in a country which was convicted by the International Court of Justice?". On 19 December 2005, the International Court of Justice- which is charged with settling disagreements between countries- convicted Uganda, at the end of a complaint filed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to have been involved in military activities in Ituri, in eastern DRC, by supporting militias, and "to have thus violated the principle of nonrecourse to force in international relations". Uganda, moreover, was sentenced to pay reparations.

The Club of the Friends of Law of Congo reproaches, moreover, to the Ugandan government its attitude towards the ICC. Seized by Uganda, the prosecutor had opened an investigation in 2004, then to issue five arrest warrants against leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a militia in northern Uganda opposed to the regime of President Museveni. Since then, the rebels- including their leader, Joseph Kony- conditioned the signature of a peace agreement to the withdrawal of the warrants issued by the Court. For Eugène Bakama Bope, "the government uses the ICC to pressure the rebels", he argues. "But the LRA continues to commit crimes in DRC [where the militia is engaged, note]. I do not see how the LRA can be an interlocutor for peace".

For the activist, but also for international NGOs, other countries, more neutral towards the Court, like Kenya, South Africa or Tanzania, would have been better candidates to host such a conference. Thus, according to Geraldine Mattioli, of Human Rights Watch, "it would have been preferable that the states has selected a country which that the prosecutor is not investigating". But for the Ugandan Minister of Justice, Frederick Ruhindi, "Uganda is in the heart of the Great Lakes region" and this revision conference held in Kampala "will offer a chance to the States Parties, but also to the civil society and, especially, the thousands of victims of the region, to better know the Court".

Concerning the warrants issued against the LRA rebels and not carried out, the Minister of Justice says that he hopes that in the long term, "we will arrive at the wanted objective". Many observers estimate that Uganda will not hand the rebels to the Court. The government gave them until 30 November to sign the peace agreements.


© Hirondelle News Agency