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War Criminals Discussed at UN, Uganda and Somalia Outshined by Darfur

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, November 29 -- Indictments of the International Criminal Court should not be sidestepped with "some form of fancy amnesty" as threatened in Uganda, Ethiopia should join the Court, and Ban Ki-moon should have more publicly urged the arrest of the ICC's two Sudanese indictees. These were among the positions pushed Thursday at the UN, just before the two-week meeting of the 105 ICC member states. Inner City Press asked Ndifuna Mohammed of Uganda's Human Rights Network about the failure to arrest the Lord's Resistance Army indictees. He asked with a question about the argument Uganda's Museveni government recently had with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, urging the DRC to "flush out" the LRA rather than arrest them. Video here, from Minute 41:26. He also questioned why the ICC has not investigated, much less indicted, any in Uganda's army, for war crimes not only in Acholiland but also Karamoja, where villages are burned in the name of disarmament. "The Karimojong took to buying weapons to re-sell them to the government," he said, shaking his head. Then the violence escalated.

            Inner City Press also asked if there are any moves afoot to investigate war crimes in Somalia. William Pace of the Coalition for the ICC responded that "we continue to insist that Ethiopia, the capital of the African Union, will ratify the Rome Statute" of the ICC. It might be added that Ethiopia benefits from numerous UN sub-headquarters. Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch responded on Uganda, that "we're not critical" of UN agencies for "meeting with Joseph Kony or possible the late Vincent Otti." Inner City Press had asked the panel for any insight into Otti's fate, and followed up by asking about the obligations of state parties to the ICC and of UN agencies to arrest indictees on sight. Dicker's answers was round-about: that Uganda had referred the LRA to the Court because they couldn't apprehend them. Fine. But can UN officials stand next to indictees and do nothing? Apparently yes.

UN's Jan Egeland with ICC indictees Kony and Otti, handcuffs not shown

            Dicker and Osamn Hammaida, identified on the flier as a "Sudanese activist," both criticized Ban Ki-moon for either not having raised the ICC indictments to president Bashir, or not having made this public after their meetings. Inner City Press asked Dicker if HRW was as insistent about the UN raising the continued freedom and impunity of the Uganda indictees. Dicker responded that the Uganda case presented the ying and yang of justice and of peace. And Sudan doesn't? Dicker spoke about China's responsibility, and mentioned the Olympics. Somewhere, Mia Farrow and maybe Spielberg were smiling. But about Uganda's LRA, nothing. Nor about war crimes in Nepal and Colombia. Selective focus continues to plague this justice field, and will be explored in the next two weeks.

            One final note: a report by the UN's last special representative on the prevention of genocide, about Cote d'Ivoire, was buried and never released. On a lighter noted, earlier this week Inner City Press asked the UN about the fate of its messenger or musician of peace in Abidjan, Alpha Bondy. From the transcript:

Inner City Press: On Cote d'Ivoire, there's this report that the Messenger of Peace Alpha Blondy, a musician from Cote d'Ivoire...  First, is he no longer a Messenger for Peace?  He seems to have written an open letter saying that UNOCI has said that he no longer is, and he's said that only the Secretary-General can make that decision.  Are you aware of any change in his status as a messenger of peace?

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of, but I can check on that for you.

Inner City Press: He wrote an open letter, somehow saying that there were moves afoot to...

Spokesperson:  Yes.  I'm aware of the information; however, we don't have any confirmation of that.  I'll try to get more for you.

[The Spokesperson later clarified that Alpha Blondy had been a 'Musician for Peace' appointed by the United Nations mission in Cote d'Ivoire -- not a "Messenger of Peace" appointed by the Secretary-General.  She confirmed that the United Nations mission had sent a letter to Alpha Blondy, saying that, in the context of new peace agreements in Cote d'Ivoire, the mission no longer needed the services of a special messenger.]

            But we thought he was only a "Musician" for Peace...  Watch this site.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540