DRC/Uganda: Uganda in the Dock; Hearings Have Begun in a Case Brought by the Democratic Republic of Congo Accusing Uganda of Invading Its Sovereign Territory and Being Responsible for the Killing of Thousands of Civilians. Tom Okello Reports

Article excerpt

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has begun hearing evidence in a case in which the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accuses its neighbour Uganda of invading Congolese territory, plundering its natural resources and massacring its civilians. The public hearings are part of proceedings for a case first filed at the United Nation's highest court in 1999 entitled, Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (DRC v. Uganda).

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The DRC's application accuses Uganda of "acts of armed aggression perpetrated in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and the Charter of the OAU" [now the African Union]. It further contends that "such armed aggression involved violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DRC, violations of international humanitarian law and massive human rights violations".

The accusations relate back to the two wars in the DRC in 1996/97 and 1998-2003. Both Uganda and Rwanda twice invaded Congolese territory to first remove Mobutu Sese Seko and then his successor, Laurent Kabila. It is during these periods that Uganda is accused of committing the alleged crimes. The DRC filed a similar case against Rwanda in 2002.

The role of the ICJ, also known as the World Court, is to settle legal disputes in accordance with international law submitted to it by States, and to provide advisory opinions on legal questions referred to the court by duly authorised international organs and agencies.

In opening proceedings, the Congolese ambassador to The Netherlands, Jacques Masangu-a-Mwanza, claimed that despite the Ugandan army officially leaving its soil in May 2003, it left behind "a large network of warlords, which it supplies with arms so they can continue to pillage DRC's riches. …