Speaker Among named in fresh ICC torture petition 

Speaker Anita Among

What you need to know:

  • The Bukedea Woman MP is alleged to have been involved in the abduction of a victim, who was picked up by suspected security agents and tortured as part of an extrajudicial ‘punishment’

Fresh details emerging about a new petition lodged with the International Criminal Court have revealed that Speaker of Parliament Anita Among’s name has been included on a list of six other individuals identified by victims of gross human rights violations and abuse.
The petition was filed with the court at The Hague in the Netherlands on July 11. 

In it are allegations that Ugandan military intelligence and police personnel subjected Ugandan citizens to extreme forms of torture, characterised by horrific and chilling physical and psychological abuse.
American lawyer Bruce L. Afran is counsel for the victims. 

Included in the petition documents are victim statements in which Ms Among is alleged to have been involved in the abduction of a victim.
It is claimed in the petition that the said victim was picked up by suspected security agents and tortured as part of an extrajudicial ‘punishment’. 
If the petition passes the elaborate standards of evidence required before an investigation into alleged crimes is authorised, and is admitted for trial by the ICC, the Speaker potentially could also be facing a separate matter related to the purported abduction and unlawful detention of a journalist.

On Saturday afternoon, Mr Joseph Sabiti, the principal press secretary to the Speaker, dismissed the allegations.

“A number of journalists have made a career throwing all manner of accusations at the Speaker and are walking free in this town. In fact, Anita Among is now a ‘beat’ [area of news reporting] in journalism. It is, therefore, laughable that one can claim she sponsors suppression of the media,” he said. 

He added: “When you scroll through social media platforms, you see all tribes of insults, mockery and falsehood thrown at the Speaker, unless one is alien in this country, they would know that the Rt Hon Anita Among is one of the biggest supporters and friends of the fourth estate”. 

Mr Afran’s petition requesting that the ICC opens investigations into claims of torture and other crimes against humanity, names President Museveni and his son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, together with 26 other Ugandan security officials.

However, on Friday, Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka told Sunday Monitor that although the government has not been formally served with a copy of the petition, the decision to file at the ICC may be misplaced. 
“ICC by its nature is a court of last resort and it really only complements the justice system of a signatory state where they have not or cannot deliver justice,” he said.

Mr Kiwanuka said he had “not seen the petition and I do not know what is in the petition, but from what I am seeing on the social media… there is a US lady attorney who is pushing the ICC to do some investigations regarding the 2021 election violence but this is politics because this has been on for the last three years”.

“Investigations have already been conducted in Uganda, taken to courts of law, individuals were charged and even sentenced,” he said.
The Attorney General said Uganda has a “transformed justice system and if the lawyers wanted to address any matters in court, the courts are here”.

“Really I have not seen the complaint/petition and, therefore, I cannot say that it has any material sufficient for ICC,” he said.

Museveni on ICC
Although Uganda is a state party to the so-called 1998 Rome Statute, which established the ICC, meaning the court can prosecute cases involving crimes against humanity that occur in Uganda, President Museveni has joined other African leaders in accusing it of bias and being an instrument of Western imperialism targeting African leaders.

In 2004, the ICC had declined to prosecute Ugandan state actors and the military on allegations of gross human rights abuses, genocide and crimes against humanity during the long armed conflict in northern Uganda.

Following months of negotiations, then ICC chief prosecutor, Mr Luis Moreno-Ocampo, held a joint press conference in Kampala with President Museveni to announce that Kampala had referred the Lord’s Resistance Movement (LRA) to the ICC. LRA leader Joseph Kony is still at large, but a former commander of the rebel army’s Sinia Brigade, Brig Dominic Ongwen, was arrested on July 8, 2005. He was tried and convicted by the ICC for 61 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder and attempted murder; rape; sexual slavery; forced marriage; torture; enslavement; outrage upon personal dignity; conscription and use of children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities; pillaging; destruction of property and persecution. 
On May 6, 2021 the ICC sentenced Brig Ongwen to 25 years in prison.

Six years before the conviction, in March 2015, President Museveni expressed support for ICC, notwithstanding his misgivings.

“Despite our differences, we are on the same side,” Mr Museveni told the new ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda after her five-day tour of war-affected areas in north and eastern Uganda.

Later, he appeared to revert to type, seemingly offering support to then Sudan leader, Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted by the ICC in 2009. On May 12, 2016, President Museveni described the ICC as “a bunch of useless people,” which should be ignored by African leaders.

Sunday Monitor was told by Mr Afran that the petition includes victim statements sworn under oath by more than 200 alleged individuals 
Part of the petition says that the decision to file with the ICC was informed by the perception that Uganda’s judicial system is unable to deliver justice to victims of state-inspired violence.

Lawyer and human rights defender, Mr Ivan Bwowe, yesterday said it is difficult to get justice in cases where powerful people are implicated in Uganda.

“In our country, when a person seeks justice against the leaders who hold power, usually it is a battle and most of which the victims are victimised,” he said. 

“Whereas courts are effective on certain things, we do not have a good record when it comes to human rights, access to justice is a battle when members of the legislature are involved,” he explains.

Meanwhile, Judiciary spokesperson, Mr Jameson Karemani maintained that Uganda’s courts are open for everyone. He rejected the petition’s assertion that access to justice is hard in Uganda.

“That is his opinion, but those who have been in courts are the ones to testify if people really get justice,” he said over the phone yesterday afternoon.

In the same petition, deputy chief of defence forces, Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, is again named in relation to the November 26, 2016 Rwenzururu Kingdom killings in Kasese District, southwestern Uganda.
It was reported that more than 100 people were killed, including women and children when Uganda’s soldiers commanded by Lt Gen Elwelu, who was a brigadier at the time, attacked the kingdom.

However, the ICC’s Report on Preliminary Examination [of] Activities 2020 concluded that while the Kasese killings were not justifiable, they did amount to war crimes. The ICC prosecutor was reported to have been unable to determine that the said acts occurred pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organisational policy, as required by Article 7(2)(a) of the Rome Statute.

List of additional six as stated in July 11 ICC petition
General Peter Elwelu
Frank Mwesigwa, Commissioner of Police
James Burungi, Chief of Military Intelligence
Chris Serunjogi Ddamulira, Director, Crime Intelligence, Uganda Police.
Don William Nabasa, Commander of Military Police.
Anitah Among, Speaker of Parliament
List of 26 as stated in July 11 ICC petition
Yoweri Museveni
Muhoozi Kainerugaba
Abdel Kandiho
Ronald Kibuule
Mwesigwa Frank
Asiimwe Abraham
Frank Tumukunde
Asiimwe Abraham
Sodo Kaguta
Col Tom Kabuye
Al Hassan
Eria Ssenboga
Wamala Kisakyamukama Yiga
ASP Andrew Angume (E-60)
Kambale Nelson
Lance Corporal Kanyesigye Joab
Flavia Byekwaso, Mil Spokesperson (B-0444)
Kaka (S3-47)

ICC legal process

The ICC does not prosecute those under the age of 18 when a crime was committed.
Before the prosecutor can investigate an alleged crime, she must conduct a preliminary examination considering such matters as sufficient evidence, jurisdiction, gravity, complementarity, and the interests of justice.

When investigating, the prosecutor must collect and disclose both incriminating and exonerating evidence. The defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof lies with the prosecutor.

During all stages of proceedings (Pre-Trial, Trial and Appeals), the defendant has the right to information in a language he or she fully understands, thus the ICC proceedings are conducted in multiple languages, with teams of interpreters and translators at work.
Pre-Trial judges issue warrants of arrest and ensure there is enough evidence before a case can go to trial.

Before a case is committed to trial (during the Pre-Trial phase), the defendant is referred to as a suspect. Once the case is committed to trial, since at that point the charges have been confirmed, the defendant is referred to as the accused.

Trial judges hear the evidence from the prosecutor, defence, and the victims’ lawyers, render a verdict, and if a person is found guilty, the sentence and decision on reparations are delivered. Appeals judges render decisions on appeals from the prosecutor or defence.
If a case is closed without a verdict of guilt, it can be reopened if the prosecutor presents new evidence.

-Source: International Criminal Court website.