AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into allegations of human rights abuses in northern Uganda after the country’s government made charges against a rebel group, it said Thursday.
Last December Uganda asked the Hague-based ICC, the first permanent world court to try war crimes and crimes against humanity, to investigate charges of abuses by the cult-like Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Uganda accuses the rebel group of systematically mutilating young Ugandans, forcing boys to become child soldiers and abducting girls as sex slaves.
The ICC says reports indicate that over 17 years the LRA has abducted some 20,000 children, terrorized villages, burned houses and looted shops.
“We are investigating any crimes committed in northern Uganda after July 2002. We have the full support for this from the authorities in Uganda,” ICC prosecution spokesman Christian Palme said. He declined to say how long the investigation would last.
The court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, said in January there could be a court case against the leaders of the LRA as early as next year.