Uganda violated international law by occupying eastern DR of Congo – UN court

19 December 2005

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations' principal judicial organ for settling disputes between countries, ruled today that Uganda violated the principle of non-intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and breached human rights laws through the brutalities committed by its army.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations' principal judicial organ for settling disputes between countries, ruled today that Uganda violated the principle of non-intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and breached human rights laws through the brutalities committed by its army.

The case, in which the Hague-based court found Uganda liable for reparations, relates to the occupation of the DRC’s Ituri province by the Ugandan armed forces, which the court found guilty of a litany of abuses, ranging from the killing and torture of civilians to training child soldiers and inciting ethnic conflict to looting natural resources.

The ICJ also found that the DRC violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations through the attack by its armed forces on Uganda’s embassy in Kinshasa and the maltreatment of Ugandan diplomats, and was liable for reparations for injury caused.

It ruled that if the parties could not settle the reparations issues themselves, the Court would decide.

But the major part of the ruling related to Uganda’s activities in Ituri after August 1998 until the withdrawal of its forces in 2002, rejecting the Ugandan contention that its military actions could be justified as self-defence.

“The unlawful military intervention by Uganda was of such magnitude and duration that the Court considers it to be a grave violation of the prohibition of the use of force,” it wrote.

It concluded that Uganda is “internationally responsible for violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law” by its forces, which committed “acts of killing, torture and other forms of inhumane treatment of the civilian population,” destroyed villages and civilian buildings, incited ethnic conflict, and was involved in the training of child soldiers.

While it had not been presented with credible evidence proving there was a Ugandan government policy to exploit the DRC’s natural resources or that the military intervention was carried out for that purpose, the ICJ concluded that Uganda “is internationally responsibly for acts of looting, plundering and exploitation” committed by its troops, including “the most high-ranking officers.”

 

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