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Last Updated: Friday, 7 October 2005, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Ugandan top rebel leader indicted
LRA leader Joseph Kony
Kony wants Uganda to be ruled according to the Ten Commandments
Uganda has named the five Lord's Resistance Army rebel commanders sought by the International Criminal Court.

These were the first ICC warrants and include LRA leader Joseph Kony and his deputy Vincent Otti, according to the Ugandan defence minister.

"Now the whole world will be searching for Kony," Amama Mbabazi said.

The LRA is accused of widespread murder and torture during nearly 20 years of fighting against the army. They have kidnapped thousands of children.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the move as an "historic development".

"It stamps the accused... as indicted war criminals by an international court. That has not happened before," International Justice Programme director Richard Dicker said.

The Roman Catholic Church in Uganda has warned that the warrants jeopardise efforts to mediate an end the rebel insurgency.

Many northern Ugandans had hoped negotiations would solve the conflict, in which thousands have been killed and 1.5 million people forced from their homes.

Child victims

Uganda asked the Hague-based court to investigate violations in northern Uganda last year.

The request was the first time a state had asked the court to take up a case.

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
First permanent court to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and other human rights violations
Rome Statute set up in July 1998, when 120 countries adopted the treaty
Came into force in April 2002 after ratification by 60 countries
Uganda and DR Congo investigations began in 2004
Inquiry in west Sudan's Darfur region began in 2005

News of the arrest warrants was first revealed on Thursday by the UN envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo, William Swing.

There has been no word from ICC itself.

The other rebels named by Mr Mbabazi are Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, who the Ugandan military claims to have killed last week

The LRA are known for abducting young children, to become fighters or sex slaves.

Human rights groups also accuse them of murder, mutilation, torture and rape.

"Victims have been suffering at the hands of the LRA for near... 20 years in northern Uganda," Mr Dicker said.

But he added that he hoped the court would also investigate the Ugandan army, which is also accused of abuses against civilians during its war with the rebels.

Peace talks

Earlier this year some Ugandans expressed fears that such a move could derail negotiations between the LRA and the government.

Ugandan soldiers guarding civilians in a truck in northern Uganda
Ugandan civilians live in constant fear of attacks

But Ugandan Minister of Internal Affairs Ruhakana Rugunda, who leads the government peace team, said peaceful resolution efforts would continue despite these arrest warrants being issued.

The amnesty, which for the past five years has allowed rebel fighters to give themselves up without fear of prosecution, still stands for other LRA members, he said.

However, the head of the amnesty commission, Justice Onega, said the warrants would hinder his work.

"Now with the warrants out it is going to be more difficult to convince them to come out. They will definitely think that it may be a propaganda to get them out and then issue warrants for them later."

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has favoured a military approach, but its failure to bring lasting peace is a major reason why so many in northern Uganda favoured the peace talks option.

The big question now, says the BBC's Will Ross in Kampala, is how the LRA commanders will be arrested in order to face justice.




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