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War crimes prosecutor won't meet Uganda rebels

MYT 12:01:23 AM

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court's prosecutor said on Tuesday he would not meet Ugandan rebels who want him to lift indictments against them before they sign a final peace agreement.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement the leaders of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army he has charged can approach the court's judges if they want to challenge his case.

Uganda's Lord Resistance Army's (LRA) head of peace talk team Martin Ojul (R) gestures next to his Uganda government counterpart Ruhakana Rugunda during a news conference in Kampala, November 1, 2007. (REUTERS/James Akena/Files)

"Any LRA legal representative would have to follow the judicial procedures and file applications before the pre-trial chamber," he said, adding he was confident his case was sound.

Last week, Uganda's government and the LRA signed the last in a series of documents paving the way for a peace agreement.

Uganda's Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said the final peace deal would be signed by March 28.

"This is to allow the LRA delegation to proceed to the ICC in The Hague and then to Ri-Kwangba," Rugunda, head of the government team at peace talks in Juba, south Sudan, said in a statement.

Ri-Kwangba is an assembly area on the border between south Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, where the rebels are meant to gather for demobilisation.

But the rebels have refused to set a date for a final deal unless their leader Joseph Kony, who is thought to be hiding in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is granted immunity by the Hague court.

LRA delegates could not immediately be reached for comment.

Moreno-Ocampo's office said it was aware Kony had given power of attorney to representatives who said they planned to meet the prosecutor, but he had turned them down.

The court's registry will meet the LRA representatives to discuss procedural issues if they come to The Hague, an official said.

The Ugandan government has rejected a rebel demand for immunity for Kony before a final peace deal is signed but has said it will ask the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution asking the ICC to defer the case against the LRA.

The two sides have also agreed to set up special war crimes courts in Uganda.

The ICC has indictments out on Kony as well as two of his deputies for crimes against humanity. The LRA has been accused of murder, rape, the abduction of children and slicing off body parts during 20 years of conflict.

Tens of thousands have been killed and some 2 million displaced from their homes in the conflict that has affected the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan as well as Uganda.

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