UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14 (Reuters) The people responsible for serious human rights crimes in Uganda's 20-year war must be brought to justice as part of an effort to complete a negotiated peace, the UN Security Council said.
The issue is crucial in peace talks between the Ugandan government and Lord's Resistance Army rebels, including its leader Joseph Kony, who have been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Kony and three other rebel commanders also indicted are in hiding in east Congo.
Delegates of the LRA met with Ugandan government officials in Kampala this month in their first visit since peace talks began in neighboring South Sudan in July last year.
The talks have raised hopes of an end to the war, in which tens of thousands of people have been killed and two million displaced. The LRA has been accused of terrorizing villagers for two decades, killing, beating and burning their victims and stealing children for recruits and sex slaves.
The UN Security Council issued a statement backing the negotiations for a swift conclusion to the peace process, but warned that anyone responsible for atrocities should face justice.
''Security Council members also reiterated that those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law must be brought to justice,'' the statement added yesterday.
The statement followed a council briefing by UN Special Envoy Joaquim Chissano, a former president of Mozambique who led his country to peace after a long civil war.
Chissano told reporters the Ugandan peace talks were focused on whether those responsible for atrocities on both sides should face a national process of justice ''which normally ends up with some sort of pardon, but consented by the victims themselves.'' ''There's a lot of discussion about what is just, what is justice,'' he said. ''I think that they will find the answers on what is good for the country, for this permanent peace and for reconciliation and the unity of the country.'' The LRA has argued that Kony and three others indicted by the ICC should be subject to Uganda's national laws. Kony is accused of killing civilians, hacking body parts off victims and kidnapping children.
Chissano said the Ugandan government had initially asked the International Criminal Court to get involved but now it was seen as a ''hindrance'' to a quick solution.
''The ICC is seen by them as a stumbling block,'' he said.
Asked about Ugandan media reports that Kony had killed his second-in-command, Vincent Otti, about a month ago following a dispute, Chissano said it was impossible to confirm whether Otti was alive or not. A mediator quoted Kony last week as saying Otti was in detention.
Reuters RC VP0450