Leading international human rights group, Human Rights Watch, has issued an appeal to government forces pursuing the Lord's Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of Congo to respect humanitarian law and to protect civilians caught in between the fighting.
On Sunday December 14th, Ugandan, Congolese, and Southern Sudanese forces attacked a major LRA base in Garamba National Park in northeastern Congo. The offensive followed the failure of the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, to sign a peace agreement with the government of Uganda.
In a statement issued today (Tuesday), Elise Keppler, senior counsel at Human Rights Watch, advised that all commanders involved in this operation should ensure that their troops rigorously obey the laws of war. Keppler noted that international humanitarian law prohibits the killing or injuring of persons not taking part in hostilities and called for extra caution as the armies undertake the offensive.
Human Rights Watch also urged that LRA leaders accused of war crimes who surrender or are captured should be brought to trial. It said that as parties to the Rome Treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, the DRC and Uganda are obligated to apprehend LRA fugitives wanted for trial for war crimes. It added 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.
According to a statement issued by the military intelligence chiefs of Uganda, DRC, and Southern Sudan, the attack is a preemptive strike that aims to free hostages and capture or kill LRA leaders.
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