Days after Bosco Ntanganda, the Congolese war lord surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali, Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court prosecutor has asked LRA rebel commanders to follow suit. In a statement issued on Tuesday, Bensouda notes that information reaching the Office of the Prosecutor indicates that members of the LRA are being misled that they will be killed or tortured by the ICC if they try to escape.
She however assures the rebels that their rights would be protected and the case against them will be tried in accordance with accepted international human rights standards, should they surrender. Bensouda also says the rebels will face a fair, impartial and public justice system that respects all their rights, including the right to be represented by a lawyer of their choice and to present evidence in their defense.
She explained that the ICC does not impose the death penalty and stressed that if convicted they will not be sentenced to death. She said ICC has investigated and issued pending arrest warrants against only LRA top commanders Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen adding that if they surrender to ICC, they will not be tortured or killed.
The statement comes against the backdrop of heightened attacks on LRA hideouts in Central African Republic. Several LRA commanders have surrendered to UPDF while others have been killed in combat with UPDF. According to Bensouda, the choices for the three commanders are clear.
She said they should hand themselves over and face a fair justice process at the ICC or remain fugitives in full knowledge that military forces from many countries are looking for them,adding that they may be cornered, captured and wounded in the process. She appealed to all those that still remain within LRA ranks to abandon violence, stop committing crimes and follow the courageous steps of others who have abandoned the rebellion.
In 2005, ICC judges issued arrests for three LRA commanders including Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo and Vincent Otii and Dominic Ongwen. They are wanted for allegedly committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in Northern Uganda including murder, sexual enslavement, rape, attack against civilian population, pillage and forced enlistment of children among other inhumane acts.
Vincent Otii who was the 2nd in command to Joseph Kony has since been rumored to have been killed by Kony.