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UN official urges Ugandan parties to put human rights at centre of talks

UN official urges Ugandan parties to put human rights at centre of talks

Louise Arbour
The top United Nations human rights official today urged the Government of Uganda and the insurgent Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to reject impunity and ensure respect for international standards during peace talks set to resume tomorrow in Juba, southern Sudan.

“For a peace agreement to be durable it must be based on the principles of justice, accountability and the rule of law,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in Geneva.

“Any accord must reaffirm the commitment of both parties to the core principle of international law that there can be no amnesty for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and gross violations of human rights,” she said.

Recalling that members of the LRA have been indicted by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity and war crimes, the High Commissioner said, “Discussions concerning those persons should be focusing on the terms and circumstances of their surrender so they can go and address the charges against them before the ICC.”

The High Commissioner also encouraged parties in Juba to commit to a national “victim-centered consultative process” aimed at gathering the views of all stakeholders on appropriate justice, accountability and reconciliation mechanisms.

“The peace agreement should set a timeframe for the national dialogue and identify an independent institution to coordinate the process, so that past abuses and violations, as well as deep-seated social and economic inequalities, may be addressed comprehensively,” Ms. Arbour said.

Since the LRA rebellion began in 1986, the rebel group has become notorious for abducting children and then using them as soldiers or porters, while subjecting some to torture and allocating many girls to senior officers in a form of institutional rape.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in October, 2005 issued its first-ever arrest warrants against Joseph Kony, the LRA leader, and four of the group’s commanders – Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya – on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.