- The Human Rights Watch has today cautioned against respect of international humanitarian law as regional search and attack on Joseph Kony, leader of Lord's Resistance Army and his accomplices intensifies in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Ugandan, Congolese, and Southern Sudanese forces have began a major search for LRA base in Garamba National Park in northeastern Congo since last weekend.
The senior counsel with Human Rights Watch's International Justice Programme, Elise Keppler said civilians in eastern Congo have been abused by forces operating in the region in the previous operations, saying the current operation should respects rights of civilians.
"All commanders involved in this operation should ensure that their troops rigorously obey the laws of war," she said.
HRW said a statement issued by the military intelligence chiefs of Uganda, DRC, and Southern Sudan, clearly showed the attack is a preemptive strike that aims to free hostages and capture or kill LRA leaders, including those who the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants in 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"Mr Kony and other LRA leaders wanted by the ICC for heinous abuses against civilians should be apprehended and brought to trial," said Ms Keppler, indicating that fair, credible prosecutions for the most serious crimes committed by both sides in the northern Uganda conflict are vital to ensuring justice and a durable peace.
The attack on the LRA follows a series of failed attempts to secure Mr Kony's signature on a final peace agreement after more than two years of peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA, which took place in Juba, Southern Sudan, to end the conflict in northern Uganda, according HRW.
Mr Kony had been hiding in DRC since April when the UN sponsored talks halted after he refused to sign a peace accord because of the outstanding arrest warrants issued by the ICC. Since then Mr Kony has on multiple occasions failed to show up for continued negotiations, despite initially agreeing to appear.
The Ugandan government has recently accused the Lord's Resistance Army rebels of abducting children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Uganda but said a peace deal would be a better option to a lasting solution that would bring to an end nearly two decades of war in northern Uganda which has killed thousands of people and left 2 million homesless.
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