Police raid MP Betty Nambooze's homes over Museveni ICC petition

Friday November 22 2019
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Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze looks on from her balcony as police surround her home in Mukono District on November 22, 2019. PHOTOS BY DERICK KISSA

Police have raided Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze’s homes and cordoned them off in attempt to block meetings she had organized to collect signatures to petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Museveni.
Police detectives commanded by SP Joab Wabwire on Friday morning raided the MP’s homes in Kavule and Nakabago villages in Mukono before they blocked everyone, including the MP, from leaving or accessing the homes.

One of the MP’s lawyers, Mr Abdullah Kiwanuka, one of her council and who had also said that they are looking for 20,000 signatures from greater Mukono to petition the ICC and also condemned the act of police to sorround off Betty Nambooze's home.

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Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze looks on from her balcony as police surround her home in Mukono District on November 22, 2019.


SP Wabwire said no one was allowed to access the MP.
However, some journalists managed to access Ms Nambooze who condemned the act of police making her home a prison.
"My home has become a prison. My husband has not gone to work. Even my children didn’t go to school. This torture that is continuing to hurt us so much is the reason we are collecting signatures to petition ICC," Ms Nambooze said.

The deputy spokesperson for Kampala metropolitan police, Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, said that the meetings were illegal since the MP did not inform police about them.

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"We got information that she was going to have a rally in the market and that is what we are trying to stop because it is illegal and we were not informed about it," Mr Owoyesigyire said.

By press time Friday afternoon, the MP’s homes were still surrounded.
The petition spearheaded by the People’s Government led by four-time presidential contender, Dr Kizza Besigye requires at least two million Ugandans to append their signatures. The People’s Government will hand over the petition to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open cases of crime against humanity against President Museveni and other government officials in security agencies.

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According to the Rome Statute that establishes the ICC, crimes against humanity include murder, extermination, enslavement, torture, enforced disappearance of persons and imprisonment among others.

RELATED STORIES

  • Appeal to ICC proof that Opposition is out of options in fight against Museveni

    Saturday November 16 2019

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    President Museveni’s political opponents have often relied on elections to try to end his vice-like grip on State power, but electoral tactics have signally failed in part because of numerous obstacles the President deliberately piles along his opponents’ political paths, even as he maintains that Uganda is a democracy.
    Now Mr Museveni’s opponents are trying a change of tactics. They want to drag him to the International Criminal Court (ICC). But the move raises more questions than it answers and gives the impression that the Opposition is increasingly running out of options and has been outfoxed and outgunned.

    The campaign is being led by Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, backed by Mr Museveni’s political arch-rival and former presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, and other leading Opposition politicians. Mr Lukwago told reporters that his team had compiled “cogent and overwhelming evidence to support the indictment” of Mr Museveni. He said his team would deliver a “truckful of evidence” to the ICC.
    The move is still in the pipeline and will be backed by a petition by Ugandans. But even without the benefit of legal expertise, it is not hard to see that that the campaign has slim chances of success and seems more like a publicity stunt for the politicians involved than a well-thought-out effort targeting a power-hungry President who has done just about anything to cling to power.

    The ICC’s founding treaty, called the Rome Statute, grants the court jurisdiction over four main crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression, which is the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, integrity or independence of another state, according to the ICC.

    The court deals with crimes committed on or after July 1, 2002, when it began life. If, as Mr Lukwago and his team allege, Mr Museveni has committed crimes that require intervention by the ICC, he has committed them between 2002 and 2019. Anything before 2002 is irrelevant.
    I will look at each of the four crimes separately to try to make sense of the allegations made by Mr Lukwago and his team. And I am not trying to say that Mr Museveni has no skeletons in his closet.

    Genocide
    Let me begin with genocide, defined by the ICC as the specific intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by killing its members. A pertinent question to ask is whether there is any place in Uganda or in neighbouring countries where the government or security forces have committed genocide (as defined by the ICC) between 2002 and 2019?
    During the period under review, three major incidents occurred in Uganda that resulted in a significant loss of lives—but they can’t, by any stretch of imagination, be called genocide. The first were riots in Kampala in 2009 over Kabaka Ronald Mutebi’s blocked visit to Kayunga, which left 48 people dead, killed by police and the military, according to Human Rights Watch.
    The second incident involved terror attacks by the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab in Kampala in 2010, which killed 76 Ugandans, and the third incident was the boat tragedy in November 2018 that claimed 33 lives.

    How about the November 2016 Kasese killings?
    Human Rights Watch says research it carried out in 2017 concluded that at least 55 people died on November 26 when security forces attacked King Wesley Mumbere’s palace in Kasese. Fourteen police officers and one crime preventer in six different sub-counties were also killed.
    The attack claimed eight more people at the cultural institution’s offices on Alexander Street. On November 27, security forces killed more than 100 people during the assault on the palace compound, according to Human Rights Watch. The death toll included 15 children.
    It is not clear who killed the police officers, but their deaths suggest there was fighting. The government has ignored calls by human rights groups to investigate the killings and tell Ugandans what really happened. While human rights groups compiled reports highlighting serious human rights violations, they stopped short of using the term genocide.

    Even in parts of Uganda that have seen conflict, charges of genocide can’t stand up to close scrutiny. Between 2002 and 2010, the UPDF was pressing ahead with its offensive against the Lord’s Resistance Army, and the rebels were in disarray, with their leader, Joseph Kony, on the run. The LRA has since been completely defeated, although Kony has never been captured.
    Did the troops or the government commit genocide in the north during that period? The answer to this question can be found in the comments the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, made during an interview with Daily Monitor in December 2016.

    “When the Ugandan government referred the [LRA] case to the ICC,” Bensouda said, “they talked about the crimes that were committed by the LRA rebels. However, my predecessor [Luis Moreno Ocampo] made it very clear that the investigations or interventions of the court would require that we look at every party in the conflict, and this we actually made it a condition of the referral, and this was accepted.”
    When Bensouda went to northern Uganda, she said, people told her they were mainly concerned that the government did not protect them when they were in the IDP camps, which exposed them to attacks by the LRA.
    These remarks suggest there is no evidence government troops committed genocide or any other serious crimes in the north, at least not between 2002 and 2010, when the conflict ended.

    READ:

    Offenders will not escape justice - ICC’s Bensouda

    Thursday December 08 2016

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    THE HAGUE. Burdened by weighty cases and its often polarising indictments, the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor, Ms Fatou Bensouda, has said diplomatic ping pong by member states and unwillingness to arrest some indictees is “frustrating”.
    “It is a bit frustrating I must admit. State parties have those requests and they don’t always do it sometimes, unfortunately, for political reasons,” she said in an interview at her office on Tuesday, noting that some states do not take their responsibility serious as parties to the Rome Statute to arrest wanted suspects.

    Framers of the Rome Statute envisaged full cooperation by state parties to execute ICC’s requests, including effecting arrests, and, therefore, decided not to establish a police or separate force to carry through its decisions.
    But things have not always worked by plan. For instance, Sudan’s president Omar Bashir is criss-crossing the world --- visiting China, South Africa as well as regional neighbours Kenya and Uganda that are ICC members --- in spite of a long-standing warrant for his arrest on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges in relation to the Darfur conflict.

    Nature took care when three of five wanted Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commanders died in their lairs, the fourth; Dominic Ongwen surrendered a decade after 2005 indictment and his trial just began at the ICC while the group’s leader Joseph Kony, being pursued by regional militaries supported by US Special Forces, remains at large.
    These and other failures have peeled the layer off imperfections, if not fallacy, in ICC’s in-built mechanism -- as a judicial organ with no executing arm --- that evidently delays rather than facilitates quick justice for some of the world’s most grotesque crimes.

    Even in favourable instances such as when Uganda, in 2003, was the first country and state party to refer the case of the LRA to the ICC, that enthusiasm has over the years waned and been replaced with contempt for the court seen by many African countries and leaders as an imperial tool the West uses to target them.
    President Museveni, for instance, invited his Sudanese counterpart to his May 2016 swearing and not only refused to arrest him on the basis of ICC warrants already deposited in Kampala but openly derided the court as “useless”.
    Some diplomats at the inauguration walked out on the Ugandan leader of 30 years in protest, but he did not blink or change his heart.
    Instead, Mr Museveni has since sharpened his criticism of the ICC.

    However the sabre-rattling notwithstanding, Ms Bensouda said in the Tuesday interview that the government of Uganda is fully cooperating with the Hague-based court, a display of double-faced diplomacy.
    Evidence of that cooperation early this week found an expression in ICC’s Trial Chamber IX when prosecution led by Ms Bensouda played high frequency radio communication between LRA commanders, which Ugandan security forces intercepted and made available for the prosecution to build its case of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Ongwen.
    “We have received very good cooperation from the government of Uganda until now. Even during the surrender of Dominic Ongwen (in January 2015), and despite the rhetoric, there was cooperation [by Uganda] and it is still there,” Ms Bensouda said.

    Other displeased African countries, notably South Africa and Burundi, have each started a formal process to withdraw their ICC membership while Kenya, whose president and deputy president the ICC tried before discontinuing the trial, is mulling taking a similar path.
    However, such a withdrawal would under the Rome Statute become effective only one year from the time the instruments of withdrawal are deposited, although ICC would remain at liberty to prosecute or investigate cases in those countries referred to it prior to the withdrawal.
    Chief prosecutor Bensouda said: “Joining the ICC, withdrawing from it is a sovereign decision. No state has been forced by anybody to join ICC. But using this withdrawal to escape impunity; it should be clear the jurisdiction of ICC still exists in those states (within a year from deposit of instruments of withdrawal).”

    The court only handles cases referred to it by state parties or the UN Security Council.
    Allegations that the ICC targets Africans are “erroneous”, said Ms Bensouda, citing preliminary or full-throttle investigations they are carrying out in Georgia, Afghanistan, against UK troops in Syria, in Palestine against Israelis and in Ukraine.
    She said they will continue prosecuting accused persons, whether or not they are heads of state or government enjoying immunity at home, as long as there are credible allegations against them filed at the court.
    She promised victims of LRA war, mostly in northern Uganda, some hard work by her team to secure conviction of Ongwen as proof of commitment to deliver justice.

    tbutagira@ug.nationmedia.com

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    President Museveni

    Crimes against humanity
    Enter crimes against humanity. The ICC lists 15 forms of crimes against humanity in the Rome Statute, including offences such as murder, rape, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, enslavement—particularly of women and children, sexual slavery, torture, apartheid and deportation.
    This appears to be the only type of crimes where Mr Lukwago and his team, assuming they have overwhelming evidence as they claim, might have a case against Mr Museveni. If they have conclusive evidence that Mr Museveni committed or caused the commission of murders and torture between 2002 and 2019, they can get the ICC prosecutor to launch preliminary examinations, which would set the stage for investigations, pre-trial and trial stages.

    Even then, the ICC has to apply the complementarity principle, which means its intervention is complementary to national jurisdictions and comes only when the court is satisfied that local courts are unable to deal with alleged crimes and deliver justice that meets international standards.

    How about war crimes
    How about war crimes? Uganda has not fought any full-scale war apart from being involved in combat operations in Somalia where it is battling al-Shabaab militants. Since 2007, it has been part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), along with other troop-contributing countries such as Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti and Sierra Leone.
    Uganda deployed troops to South Sudan when the civil war broke out there in 2013, but those troops have since returned home. It also has troops in Equatorial Guinea propping up the regime of president Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a friend of Mr Museveni who seized power in 1979 and is Africa’s longest-serving leader.

    Given the fact that there hasn’t been any war to fight between 2002 and 2019, it is inconceivable that Mr Museveni can be prosecuted for war crimes, described by the ICC as grave breaches of the Geneva conventions in the context of armed conflict. They include the use of child soldiers; the killing or torture of persons such as civilians or prisoners of war; intentionally directing attacks against hospitals, historic monuments, or buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes.

    Crime of aggression
    The fourth and last crime—crime of aggression—can’t apply to Mr Museveni considering that Uganda has not fought or invaded any country since its military adventures in the DRC in the late 1990s. (The DRC took Uganda to the International Court of Justice, which deals with disputes between countries).
    Mr Lukwago's claims of “truckful of evidence” against Mr Museveni are surprising. It is not clear how he and his team have gathered the evidence, which would ordinarily attract the attention of the international community but hasn’t. Although he seems to attach a lot of importance to the petition that he said would be signed by two million Ugandans, he only needs evidence to make progress.

    In the Daily Monitor interview, Bensouda, the prosecutor, said the ICC and her office “moves on evidence and the evidence that we can collect, evaluate, analyse, and present before the judges”.
    But the Opposition has in the past failed to provide evidence even when it insists it has it, and that makes many wonder if Mr Lukwago should be taken seriously.
    When Dr Besigye lost the 2016 presidential election, for example, he told his supporters that he had evidence that he, not Mr Museveni, won the vote. He repeated that claim in March in an interview with Sunday Monitor.

    “They tried; they invaded our headquarters and took it over, hoping to impound anything we can present as evidence of our winning,” said Dr Besigye. “They failed. We, up to today, very assertively claim that we have evidence that we won the election, and that Mr Museveni is in office illegally, illegitimately.”
    Dr Besigye has never told his supporters why he doesn’t want to make the evidence public. He has instead called for an international audit of the election results, but it is hard to see why an audit serves any purpose if Mr Besigye has incontrovertible evidence that he won the election.

    Another example of the Opposition failing to provide evidence was during the 2016 election petition filed by former prime minister Amama Mbabazi. His legal team filed the petition on March 1, 2016, and had nine days to prepare everything. But they submitted the petition without affidavits, although they said the petition had been accompanied by affidavits.

    Chief Justice Bert Katureebe, who headed a nine-member panel of Supreme Court justices handling the petition, couldn’t hide his disappointment. “Either you are serious or not,” he told Mr Mbabazi’s lawyer, Michael Akampurira. “This is a very important petition. You claim in your petition that these affidavits accompanied your petition. Explain to your client why you’re messing up his petition.”
    Mr Mbabazi lost the petition, and Mr Museveni continues in office. Although desperate for votes, and is doing things that were unthinkable 20 years ago, such as engaging with drug addicts he thinks will get him votes, Mr Museveni remains a hard political nut to crack.
    His opponents and critics are frustrated. Some have died and many have given up. They include—the list is not exhaustive—Milton Obote, James Rwanyarare, Badru Wegulo, Cecilia Ogwal, Aggrey Awori and Olara Otunnu (UPC); Paul Ssemogerere, Nobert Mao, Michael Kaggwa and Lawrence Kiwanuka (DP); Eriya Kategaya, Bidandi Ssali and Miria Matembe (he fired these three in 2003 when they opposed what then was called the third term).

    Others are Herman Ssemuju (was a political clown); Chapaa Karuhanga (ran for president once and sank into political oblivion); Beti Olive Kamya (ex critic who was silenced with a job offer); Nelson Ocheger (former Action Party chief and chairman of the Multiparty National Referendum Committee and now diplomat); Abed Bwanika (former presidential candidate); Kibirige Mayanja (former presidential candidate); Mugisha Muntu (head of ANT); Amama Mbabazi (former presidential candidate); Ken Lukyamuzi (retired critic); Kizza Besigye (former presidential candidate); Bobi Wine (hugely popular political toddler).

    Even rebels who took up arms against Mr Museveni’s government didn’t go far. They include Alice Lakwena of the Holy Spirit Movement, Joseph Kony of the LRA, Herbert Itongwa of the National Democratic Army, Jamil Mukulu of the Allied Democratic Forces, Amon Bazira of the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU), Peter Otai of the Uganda People’s Army (UPA) and the Uganda People’s Democratic Army.
    Of all Mr Museveni’s opponents, Dr Besigye remains the most formidable and intrepid. But what he and Mr Lukwago are doing suggest they are now clueless about how they can dislodge Mr Museveni.

    The writer is a veteran journalist and has previously worked for Al Jazeera as a digital editor in charge of the Africa Desk.

    musaazihnamiti@gmail.com

  • Government scoffs at move to take Museveni to ICC

    Monday November 11 2019

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    Government has scoffed at a move by Opposition politicians and others to drag President Museveni and other security officers to the Internal Criminal Court (ICC), saying there is no substance in the petition.

    On Friday, a group of Ugandans started a process they said would end with the President being in the dock at the ICC in The Hague, adding that they had gathered enough evidence pinning Mr Museveni and his cronies.
    Col Shaban Bantariza, the deputy executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, advised petitioners to instead join other forces that are working hard to improve welfare of Ugandans.
    Earlier, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, a lawyer and an NRM supporter, had called the move an “absolute nonsense”, that has no future.

    READ:

    Can ICC indict Museveni?

    Sunday November 10 2019

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    Several individuals and groups have in the past petitioned the International Criminal Court (ICC) over President Museveni and other officials in his government but the court has not acted.
    Then why should anyone pay attention to a similar move that a number of politicians have announced?

    “We want two million Ugandans to sign the petition and then see how the (ICC) prosecutor’s office will dismiss it as just another complaint,” Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, told Sunday Monitor.

    Mr Lukwago, also the deputy president of the mock administration dubbed People’s Government, said at a media briefing, where a press statement, copies of the document he says they intend to submit to the ICC, was released.

    The media briefing was attended by four-time presidential candidate and Mr Museveni’s arch rival, Dr Kizza Dr Besigye and other members of the People’s Government.

    “We shall transport a truckful of evidence; that’s when you will see the amount of work we have done in assembling all this,” Mr Lukwago said.

    He added: “We have compiled cogent and overwhelming evidence to support indictment [of Museveni and others] on the aforesaid crimes against humanity, which include damning reports of different local and international human rights organisations and humanitarian agencies, individual accounts and testimonies of victims of state-inspired violence and torture, dossiers by whistleblowers and good Samaritans within the security agencies, as well as graphic, visual and audio recordings.”

    The petition
    Mr Lukwago said the People’s Government, led by Dr Besigye, has consulted with leaders of different Opposition formations and expects that they will turn up to sign the petition beginning next week.

    The signing, Mr Lukwago said, will take place at the offices of the People’s Government in Nakasero, Kampala. For one to sign a petition, they will be required to have a National Identity card.

    The copy of the petition supplied to journalists lists torture, suppression and extrajudicial killings as some of the grounds for petitioning the office of the prosecutor at ICC.

    The other grounds are invasion of Parliament and what the petitioners call desecration or abrogation of the Constitution, use of the state security apparatus and militia groups to persecute, dehumanise and humiliate political opponents, members of civil society organisations and the citizenry, and enforced disappearances and curtailment of civil liberties.

    In Mr Lukwago’s classification, the Special Forces Command, which protects the President and key installations such as oil fields, is a militia group, just like the Local Defence Units, the former Flying Squad Unit of the police and paramilitary Crime Preventers.

    He argues that President Museveni has entrenched himself in office by unleashing violence against Ugandans and has continued to use the security forces to terrorise people who have contrary views to what he believes in.

    “As a means of holding onto the illegitimately and illegally assumed power, Gen Museveni and his accomplices have continuously unleashed violence and terror against the citizens of Uganda to keep them muzzled and subdued,” Mr Lukwago says.

    ‘Absolute nonsense’
    We were unable to get any government spokesperson to comment on the petition. Attorney General William Byaruhanga and his deputy Mwesigwa Rukutana did not pick up our repeated phone calls and never responded to our WhatsApp messages on the matter.

    Mr Ofwono Opondo, the head of the Uganda Media Centre, declined to comment, saying he was on leave.

    However, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, a lawyer and avid supporter of the ruling NRM party, who often defends it in court, said there is not much to make out of the development.

    Mr Kiryowa said: “I have not read what they are saying. I do not know what issues they are raising but from what you are telling me, it is absolute nonsense. You can quote me on that. We have systems that work here. Why do you go out and fight your cheap political wars? You cannot use the country to fight your political wars. That is absolute nonsense.”

    Possibilities
    Mr Lukwago explains that they intend to continue with their internal push against President Museveni’s government but that the decision to also appeal to the ICC was informed by the frustrations they have suffered in the local courts.

    The Lord Mayor was one of the lawyers who represented the petitioners who challenged the removal of the 75-year limit for presidential candidates in 2017, arguing, among other things, that it was done violently.

    Both the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court maintained the deletion of the clause in the Constitution by majority decisions, and the petitioners said they were dissatisfied.

    Mr Male Mabirizi, one of the petitioners, has since referred the matter to the East African Court of Justice in another case of exporting Uganda’s internal disagreements to courts outside the country.

    Mr Lukwago argues that their effort is different from the earlier petitions that referred President Museveni and other officials to the ICC not because of the sheer number (two million) of the people they want to append their signatures but also because of the comprehensiveness of the petition.

    The draft petition is based on a number of incidents for which the petitioners say Mr Museveni is responsible, “the most recent one being the infamous Kasese massacre and army attack on Parliament”.

    Mr Lukwago says similar massacres have been carried out in Acholi Sub-region, Teso, Lango, West Nile, Luweero Triangle and none of the masterminds and perpetrators of the same have been brought to book.

    He recognises, however, that the approach they are pursuing is not one of the most straightforward for referring cases to the ICC.

    Ordinarily, cases are supposed to be referred to the court by governments of state parties to the Rome Statute of 2002, which set up the court, or the Security Council of the United Nations.

    Uganda fully joined ICC in January 2004 and became the first country to refer a case to the same court, which led to the indictment by the court of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony and five of his commanders, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Mr Museveni’s accusers have for long demanded that he too be investigated on the same cases, and a complaint was lodged with the ICC to that effect. The petition that Mr Lukwago presented also recasts an eye to the atrocities that were visited on the people of northern Uganda.

    Mr Lukwago reckons that the ICC’s prosecutor will make an exception and consider their case if millions of citizens sign it.

    Indictments in vain?
    It is not clear whether it is for politics or it can happen, but in the past the ICC prosecutor’s office has received several petitions from individuals and groups and promised to process them, although none has ever gotten beyond that stage.

    However, even if the petition that Mr Lukwago announced on Friday were to beat the odds and becomes the first ever of its category to ignite a full scale investigation by the ICC, other issues would linger.

    Indictments by the ICC have not attracted too much respect from member states in the recent years, with President Museveni leading some sort of revolt against the court in this region.

    Speaking during the 2014 independence anniversary celebrations in Kenya, President Museveni said:

    “I will bring a motion to the African Union’s next session. I want all of us to get out of that court of the West. Let them stay with their court … I supported the court at first because I like discipline. I don’t want people to err without accountability. But they have turned it into a vessel for oppressing Africa again, so I’m done with that court. I won’t work with them again.”

    During his inauguration May 2016, Mr Museveni said at Kololo: “The problems that occurred in Kenya in 2007 and that happen in other African countries are, first and foremost, ideological. For ICC to handle them as just legal matters is the epitome of shallowness.”

    On that occasion, former Sudanese president Omar al Bashir, who was indicted by the ICC and had to be arrested and handed over by member states, was in attendance.

    He’ of course, was not arrested, and he visited several other countries in his last years in office to deliver a kick in the teeth of the ICC.

    Attempts
    1. In August 2008, ICC cleared Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) of their roles in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war.
    This came after the Ugandan judicial officers questioned why ICC was not investigating the army yet it was doing the same to LRA.

    The ICC officials said no one had brought evidence against UPDF, but admitted that the government soldiers were not clean either.

    2. In January 2017, MPs from Kasese petitioned the ICC to investigate President Museveni in his capacity as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, senior Police officer Asuman Mugenyi and Brigadier Peter Elwelu of crimes which include genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of human rights among others.

    3. In 2014, Norman Magembe, a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender advocate, petitioned the ICC to investigate David Bahati, Giles Muhame and Pastor Martin Ssempa over what he called attempts to kill gays in Uganda. However, it is not clear if the case made any headway.

    However, Mr Crispus Ayena Odongo, the former Oyam North MP and lead counsel for ex-Lord’s Resistance Army rebel Dominic Ongwen, said the petition has every chance if the group works the right way.
    Mr Ayena said the petitioners need to lobby other state parties to refer their case to the ICC, adding that apart from referrals by the UN Security Council, there are other options available.
    He cited Article 14 (1) of the Rome Statute, which states: “A State Party may refer to the prosecutor a situation in which one or more crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court appears to have been committed.”

    “Since Uganda as the state within which the crimes appear to have been committed would likely be disinclined to refer the matter, it is clear from the wordings of the provision that resort can only be made to any willing state party to refer the matter to the ICC based on research and information afforded by the group on behalf of the victims,” Mr Ayena said.
    He said the second option would be for the prosecutor to initiate investigation “motu prorio.” (An official act taken without a formal request from another party.)

    This, he said, can only be based on information given to the prosecutor. Mr Ayena said the group could trigger action based on information gathered from the victims.
    “They must provide the prosecutor with information formidable enough to form the basis of sufficient evidence to establish a clear prima facie case,” he added.
    Mr Ayena, however, said while the prosecutor seems to have exclusive discretion to decide whether or not to cause investigation into the matter, this could be dangerous because beyond her, nobody can push her.

    fdraku@ug.nationmedia.com

  • Can ICC indict Museveni?

    Sunday November 10 2019

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    Several individuals and groups have in the past petitioned the International Criminal Court (ICC) over President Museveni and other officials in his government but the court has not acted.
    Then why should anyone pay attention to a similar move that a number of politicians have announced?

    “We want two million Ugandans to sign the petition and then see how the (ICC) prosecutor’s office will dismiss it as just another complaint,” Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, told Sunday Monitor.

    Mr Lukwago, also the deputy president of the mock administration dubbed People’s Government, said at a media briefing, where a press statement, copies of the document he says they intend to submit to the ICC, was released.

    The media briefing was attended by four-time presidential candidate and Mr Museveni’s arch rival, Dr Kizza Dr Besigye and other members of the People’s Government.

    “We shall transport a truckful of evidence; that’s when you will see the amount of work we have done in assembling all this,” Mr Lukwago said.

    He added: “We have compiled cogent and overwhelming evidence to support indictment [of Museveni and others] on the aforesaid crimes against humanity, which include damning reports of different local and international human rights organisations and humanitarian agencies, individual accounts and testimonies of victims of state-inspired violence and torture, dossiers by whistleblowers and good Samaritans within the security agencies, as well as graphic, visual and audio recordings.”

    The petition
    Mr Lukwago said the People’s Government, led by Dr Besigye, has consulted with leaders of different Opposition formations and expects that they will turn up to sign the petition beginning next week.

    The signing, Mr Lukwago said, will take place at the offices of the People’s Government in Nakasero, Kampala. For one to sign a petition, they will be required to have a National Identity card.

    The copy of the petition supplied to journalists lists torture, suppression and extrajudicial killings as some of the grounds for petitioning the office of the prosecutor at ICC.

    The other grounds are invasion of Parliament and what the petitioners call desecration or abrogation of the Constitution, use of the state security apparatus and militia groups to persecute, dehumanise and humiliate political opponents, members of civil society organisations and the citizenry, and enforced disappearances and curtailment of civil liberties.

    In Mr Lukwago’s classification, the Special Forces Command, which protects the President and key installations such as oil fields, is a militia group, just like the Local Defence Units, the former Flying Squad Unit of the police and paramilitary Crime Preventers.

    He argues that President Museveni has entrenched himself in office by unleashing violence against Ugandans and has continued to use the security forces to terrorise people who have contrary views to what he believes in.

    “As a means of holding onto the illegitimately and illegally assumed power, Gen Museveni and his accomplices have continuously unleashed violence and terror against the citizens of Uganda to keep them muzzled and subdued,” Mr Lukwago says.

    ‘Absolute nonsense’
    We were unable to get any government spokesperson to comment on the petition. Attorney General William Byaruhanga and his deputy Mwesigwa Rukutana did not pick up our repeated phone calls and never responded to our WhatsApp messages on the matter.

    Mr Ofwono Opondo, the head of the Uganda Media Centre, declined to comment, saying he was on leave.

    However, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, a lawyer and avid supporter of the ruling NRM party, who often defends it in court, said there is not much to make out of the development.

    Mr Kiryowa said: “I have not read what they are saying. I do not know what issues they are raising but from what you are telling me, it is absolute nonsense. You can quote me on that. We have systems that work here. Why do you go out and fight your cheap political wars? You cannot use the country to fight your political wars. That is absolute nonsense.”

    Possibilities
    Mr Lukwago explains that they intend to continue with their internal push against President Museveni’s government but that the decision to also appeal to the ICC was informed by the frustrations they have suffered in the local courts.

    The Lord Mayor was one of the lawyers who represented the petitioners who challenged the removal of the 75-year limit for presidential candidates in 2017, arguing, among other things, that it was done violently.

    Both the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court maintained the deletion of the clause in the Constitution by majority decisions, and the petitioners said they were dissatisfied.

    Mr Male Mabirizi, one of the petitioners, has since referred the matter to the East African Court of Justice in another case of exporting Uganda’s internal disagreements to courts outside the country.

    Mr Lukwago argues that their effort is different from the earlier petitions that referred President Museveni and other officials to the ICC not because of the sheer number (two million) of the people they want to append their signatures but also because of the comprehensiveness of the petition.

    The draft petition is based on a number of incidents for which the petitioners say Mr Museveni is responsible, “the most recent one being the infamous Kasese massacre and army attack on Parliament”.

    Mr Lukwago says similar massacres have been carried out in Acholi Sub-region, Teso, Lango, West Nile, Luweero Triangle and none of the masterminds and perpetrators of the same have been brought to book.

    He recognises, however, that the approach they are pursuing is not one of the most straightforward for referring cases to the ICC.

    Ordinarily, cases are supposed to be referred to the court by governments of state parties to the Rome Statute of 2002, which set up the court, or the Security Council of the United Nations.

    Uganda fully joined ICC in January 2004 and became the first country to refer a case to the same court, which led to the indictment by the court of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony and five of his commanders, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Mr Museveni’s accusers have for long demanded that he too be investigated on the same cases, and a complaint was lodged with the ICC to that effect. The petition that Mr Lukwago presented also recasts an eye to the atrocities that were visited on the people of northern Uganda.

    Mr Lukwago reckons that the ICC’s prosecutor will make an exception and consider their case if millions of citizens sign it.

    Indictments in vain?
    It is not clear whether it is for politics or it can happen, but in the past the ICC prosecutor’s office has received several petitions from individuals and groups and promised to process them, although none has ever gotten beyond that stage.

    However, even if the petition that Mr Lukwago announced on Friday were to beat the odds and becomes the first ever of its category to ignite a full scale investigation by the ICC, other issues would linger.

    Indictments by the ICC have not attracted too much respect from member states in the recent years, with President Museveni leading some sort of revolt against the court in this region.

    Speaking during the 2014 independence anniversary celebrations in Kenya, President Museveni said:

    “I will bring a motion to the African Union’s next session. I want all of us to get out of that court of the West. Let them stay with their court … I supported the court at first because I like discipline. I don’t want people to err without accountability. But they have turned it into a vessel for oppressing Africa again, so I’m done with that court. I won’t work with them again.”

    During his inauguration May 2016, Mr Museveni said at Kololo: “The problems that occurred in Kenya in 2007 and that happen in other African countries are, first and foremost, ideological. For ICC to handle them as just legal matters is the epitome of shallowness.”

    On that occasion, former Sudanese president Omar al Bashir, who was indicted by the ICC and had to be arrested and handed over by member states, was in attendance.

    He’ of course, was not arrested, and he visited several other countries in his last years in office to deliver a kick in the teeth of the ICC.

    Attempts
    1. In August 2008, ICC cleared Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) of their roles in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war.
    This came after the Ugandan judicial officers questioned why ICC was not investigating the army yet it was doing the same to LRA.

    The ICC officials said no one had brought evidence against UPDF, but admitted that the government soldiers were not clean either.

    2. In January 2017, MPs from Kasese petitioned the ICC to investigate President Museveni in his capacity as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, senior Police officer Asuman Mugenyi and Brigadier Peter Elwelu of crimes which include genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of human rights among others.

    3. In 2014, Norman Magembe, a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender advocate, petitioned the ICC to investigate David Bahati, Giles Muhame and Pastor Martin Ssempa over what he called attempts to kill gays in Uganda. However, it is not clear if the case made any headway.

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