Open Letter to Mr. Moreno Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

Mr. Prosecutor,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomed the entry into force in August 2006 of an agreement governing cessation of hostilities between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) [1] and its extension on 1 November 2006, after more than 20 years of war from which Ugandan people have heavily suffered. FIDH calls upon the parties to effectively respect this agreement and to commit themselves to the on-going peace talks, in particular by respecting international human rights and humanitarian law.

FIDH also welcomes the Security Council Presidential Statement released on 16 November 2006, in which the Security Council "invite[d] United Nations Member States [...] to ensure that those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are brought to justice" [2].

Furthermore, FIDH welcomes the latest statements of Ugandan government underlining that "the [International Criminal Court (ICC)] arrest warrants do not contradict the peace process". "The ICC is complementing the peace process", added Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, Chief Peace Negotiator for the Ugandan government, on 10 November 2006. In addition, at the opening of the Fifth session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the ICC, on 23 November 2006, the Ugandan delegate stated that "[t]he ICC is playing a very significant role and the arrest warrants remain a constant pressure on the LRA leaders to stay committed to the negotiating process".

However, FIDH remains concerned about Dr Rugunda’s statement in mid-November, namely: "the LRA needs to be advised that the position of the government is simple and straightforward: It’s only when we are armed with a peace agreement and the LRA has gone through the mato-oput process that the ICC can be asked to review the indictments".

FIDH has also noticed with great concern that LRA representatives have signaled at several occasions that a comprehensive peace agreement would be conditioned upon withdrawal of the arrest warrants issued by the ICC.

FIDH considers that there is no lasting peace without justice, and in this regard, welcomes the statements made by your office in a filing before an ICC Chamber: "[T]here is [simultaneous] recognition [...] that peace and justice should continue to be viewed as mutually reinforcing objectives [...] [O]ne of the aims expressed in the Preamble of the Rome Statute [is] that lasting peace requires that there be no impunity for crimes of concern to the international community as a whole" [3].

FIDH strongly believes that the Ugandan people who deserve sustainable peace can achieve it without giving up justice and accountability, as expressed by a great number of States Parties to the Rome Statute during the opening remarks of the past ASP. Experience shows that amnesty for perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity has never resulted in reconciliation and long-lasting peace. Amnesty for war crimes and crimes against humanity violates not only the most fundamental principles of international law [4], but also victims’ rights to access justice and to obtain reparations for the harm they have suffered. If the final peace agreement grants amnesty to perpetrators of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, victims of rape, killings, forced recruitment and mutilations will never see their right to justice and truth satisfied [5].

FIDH underlines that the ICC is an independent judicial institution with a judicial mandate, which was created to put an end to impunity, to avoid that the most serious crimes of international concern go unpunished and to help to prevent further perpetration of those crimes. As it has already been communicated to your office, FIDH considers that the "interests of justice" provision contained in Article 53 of the Rome Statute should not be interpreted as giving the Prosecutor the power to take into consideration the political context of a given situation in relation to a decision not to investigate or not to prosecute. Obviously such interpretation would be quite paradoxical considering the letter and purpose of Article 53.

FIDH is seriously concerned by certain rumours indicating that the Security Council might exercise its power under Article 16 of the Rome Statute. FIDH notes that the issue of peace and justice will always be present in the context of the situations where the Court operates. The situation in Uganda offers an opportunity to demonstrate to the victims of the horrendous crimes perpetrated in Northern Uganda that peace and justice can indeed go hand in hand, and that the ICC should not be seen as an obstacle to peace. If this opportunity is lost, there is a high risk that the Court will face similar dilemmas in every future situation, and that the ICC will become a tool of political manipulation.

In this regard, FIDH welcomes your statement on Uganda during the opening of the Fifth Session of the ASP, on 23 November 2006, underlining that "securing the arrest of the four remaining LRA commanders would prevent recurrent violence and provide justice to victims... [who] have a right to peace, security AND justice".

FIDH thus positively encourages you and your office to continue to actively seek international cooperation to execute the arrest warrants, and to further efforts to publicly support justice as an indispensable component to ensure lasting peace and reconciliation.

Yours sincerely,

Sidiki Kaba

FIDH President

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