My Lords, I first requested this short debate nearly 18 months ago after meeting Juliet, a courageous young woman, on the day that she delivered a letter to the Prime Minister asking for help for victims of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Juliet had been captured by the LRA; she had been raped, and lost her child in childbirth. The British charity, War Child, had brought Juliet to London. Juliet’s case is not an isolated one. There are thousands upon thousands of children like Juliet, and teenagers such as a boy called John. John was abducted by the LRA when he was in his early teens. Beaten, force-marched, kept hungry for days and trained to use weapons, he was told to use other children as target practice. This afternoon, I have met James Odong, World Vision’s associate director of peacebuilding, who is present at our proceedings. He was himself abducted by the LRA at the age of 19 and held for 47 days. He says:
“As a young man in captivity, I saw children brutally murdered right in front of me—and children forced to kill … Many of them have seen things no child ever should”.
Pernille Ironside, senior adviser for child protection at UNICEF, graphically describes how she heard of a girl escaping the LRA who was,
“brutally slaughtered … as a deterrent to everyone else”.
She shockingly describes the slaughter of babies for cannibalism. She, like James Odong, believes that we need to have a different way of tackling the complex problems raised by the LRA. James believes that international justice must put children at the forefront and be accountable to them; that strong national and local-level child protection systems are crucial; and that children themselves have a role to play in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The failure to contain the LRA has also led to the creation of a no-man’s land in the DRC, from which it is able to launch new incursions into Southern Sudan. It is said that it has been able to operate with impunity with the connivance of paymasters and facilitators in Khartoum, because of their desire to undermine South Sudan’s fragile new democracy. The LRA is a useful tool in the hands of Khartoum, and has become part of a resource war within the region.
Today’s debate is timely for two reasons in particular: the role of the International Criminal Court and the role of public opinion in ending a culture of impunity. Just a few days ago, on 14 March, the ICC secured its first conviction since its creation a decade ago. It convicted Thomas Lubanga for his responsibility for the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children, and using them to participate actively in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The court’s first conviction shines a light on the brutal practice of conscripting and using children to take a direct part in hostilities—children who are often sent to the front lines of combat or used as porters, guards or sex slaves. A total of 93 victims were represented in the trial, with nine former child soldiers testifying in the proceedings.
That conviction puts perpetrators of unlawful child-soldier recruitment on notice that they cannot expect their crimes to go unpunished. In 2005, the ICC’s very first arrest warrants were issued against Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti, and three other LRA commanders —Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen—so no one should be more on notice than him, along with the armed groups using children in around 15 conflicts worldwide. Most recently, al-Shabaab has joined their number in Somalia.
The protection and rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflict should be at the forefront of our minds. Failure to help former child soldiers risks the long-term development and stability of the whole region. Perhaps the Minister can establish for us whether the ICC intends to make a reparation order, or for it to be provided through the Trust Fund for Victims in order to assist the rehabilitation of individual victims. Will he also tell us whether the United Kingdom uses its leverage as a donor to militaries in countries such as the DRC, Uganda and South Sudan to include a formal mechanism in funding agreements that requires disarmament, demobilisation and the reintegration of child soldiers as part of the capacity-building activities?
I said that the debate was topical for two reasons. First, it is set against the backdrop of the role of the ICC, but the second reason is the surge of global interest as a result of the “Kony 2012” viral video, which has been watched on the internet by more than 100 million people worldwide. It certainly illustrates the new power of social networking. Made by an American advocacy group, Invisible Children, it tells the story of Kony and the LRA. Some have criticised it as simplistic, celebrity-centred, income-generating for its makers and inaccurate in implying that Kony is still at large in Uganda, which he quit six years ago. The personal criticism and the extraordinary media frenzy are said to be contributory factors in the mental breakdown of its maker, Jason Russell, who has been arrested and detained in San Diego. Whatever the reason, it is a cruel paradox that Russell has been taken into custody while the man he wants to bring to justice remains at large. Whatever its inadequacies, this internet campaign has been a game changer, mobilising millions of mainly young people worldwide, and has focused on 20 April as the day to make the infamous Kony famous. I even see posters in my son’s school demanding that Kony is brought to justice. Surely this is welcome.
Perhaps we should contrast the impact of Russell’s internet campaign with our failure to apprehend a mass murderer who boasts that he cuts off the lips, ears, noses and breasts of victims and who has ravaged and destabilised vast swathes of Africa for over 25 years, seriously undermining our development objectives. In October 2009, I asked Ministers questions which still remain unanswered. I ask again today. Who funds the LRA? Who arms it? Why have western intelligence agencies not pooled resources to track down Kony? Why have the UN and the African Union been so lamentably inadequate in protecting civilian populations?
In May 2010, President Obama signed into law the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which calls on the US Government to develop a comprehensive strategy. The United States is also spending more than $1.5 million a month supporting 100 military advisers in Africa working to track down the LRA and its leaders. I hope the Minister will tell us how that operation is proceeding and what assistance we have offered in ensuring its success. I hope he will also expand on the welcome news broadcast on Saturday last that the AU special envoy, Mr Francisco Madeira, has announced the launch of a joint military task force.
Given all these initiatives, as the ICC’s prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, says in an interview on “Kony 2012”:
“It will be bad for the world if we fail”.
We must capitalise on the welcome surge of interest in Kony and rebuild regional co-operation, scale up Ugandan military operations, strengthen civilian early warning mechanisms and promote defection. Poor co-ordination between regional Governments has enabled the LRA to exploit ungoverned spaces in the triborder region.
What should be our lodestar in determining our approach? In any attempt to bring Joseph Kony and other LRA leaders to justice, the UK must put the needs of children at the centre. To effectively stop Kony and the LRA in countries such as the DRC, the Central African Republic, Uganda and South Sudan, the security sector—the police and military—must be adequately trained, salaried, resourced and made accountable; and, as the LRA has adapted, so must the intelligence community. It must spare no effort in locating the leaders of the LRA.
I for one am grateful that “Kony 2012” has succeeded in pushing this scandalous issue up the agenda, perhaps making 2012 the year when Kony is finally brought to justice. I am grateful to all noble Lords participating in today’s short debate.
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in yet again highlighting this crucial human rights issue in such a powerful and consistent way. I want to focus on one issue relating to this: the International Criminal Court and the importance of the international rule of law in upholding human rights. By and large, most conflicts arise from one group of people feeling that they are superior to another or one group of people feeling that they are inferior to another. International law reminds us that we are all equal before the law and are all subject to the law. The International Criminal Court came into being in the Rome statute. Its objective has been said to be to,
“bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind—war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide”.
Joseph Kony was accused on arrest warrants of 12 counts of crimes against humanity and 21 war crimes. That evidence was mounted by the Office of the Prosecutor. I want to take a slightly sideways approach to this because Jason Russell did a huge international public service in raising this issue through the viral campaign on the internet, but I want to question who the target is. Of course, Joseph Kony ought to be, but what are we asking of the legislators? Is it really just to say that we want one man—one criminal—among many brought to the International Criminal Court, or do we want to see a day when we have universal application of human rights upheld by the International Criminal Court? In that case, his message needs to be directed to President Obama because the US remains a country that has not signed. It originally signed the wrong statue and then unsigned the wrong statute. How a nation that has done so much to uphold freedom and respect for human rights around the world can rest in not lending its support to the International Criminal Court in this prosecution needs a viral campaign many times more powerful than the one that we have seen. I hope that we will see that.
The question of resources is very powerful. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred to the fact that the US has taken initiatives and passed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, and it has promised $4.5 million per month to fund the campaign to try to track Kony down. That was sensational but why not have that channelled through the International Criminal Court to strengthen the court in its efforts to bring this man to justice? According to the latest records, the Office of the Prosecutor had a budget of €112,000—not per month but per year. It has one member of staff to bring this man to justice. If we want to see justice done and this man before a court, as we all desire, it behoves nations such as the United States to get behind us wholeheartedly and join the International Criminal Court, which will strengthen it in the process.
My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, for securing this debate and for introducing it with such passion and understanding. The crimes of the LRA and Joseph Kony are horrendous and well known. Atrocities against civilians have been considerable, and children have been used as soldiers and sex slaves. They have also been turned into drug addicts so that even when they stop being soldiers they remain condemned to a certain kind of life all their lives.
Arrest warrants have been issued by the ICC since 2005 and very little has happened. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that Kony and his cronies must be brought to justice, but I want to approach the question from a slightly different angle. What would happen if they were arrested and brought before the ICC? The trial would drag on; evidence would be degraded by the time of the trial, as has happened in several other cases before the ICC; or the evidence would fail to measure up to the very high standards required by the ICC for evidential justification. There would be considerable costs involved and the world would eventually lose interest in the trial and what the LRA had been doing. Painful memories of the victims would be revived and, within the countries involved, permanent problems that gave rise to the LRA and other things would remain unresolved.
While I agree entirely that we ought to be doing everything within our power to arrest Joseph Kony and others, we should be paying attention to two important things that are in danger of being neglected. First, we should be looking very carefully at the ICC. It demands standards of proof which are too high. In its conception, it has been modelled on domestic courts of justice and tribunals. That does not work at the international level. It also tends to be heavily cumbersome and dilatory. Proceedings of domestic courts cannot, as I said earlier, be models for what goes on at the international level. Again, the ICC is concerned not with ordinary crimes of rape, burglary and murder, as domestic courts are, but with multiple atrocities. How are cases involving multiple atrocities, in a context where the international law is not entirely clear, to be dealt with? It is also important that the judges should have some experience of dealing with cases involving multiple atrocities of this kind. So we should reflect a little more carefully than we have done so far upon the way in which the ICC has proceeded. It is dilatory and enormously costly. Judgment does not come until quite a few years later, and, more importantly, memories get revived when victims would rather forget.
The second important question we should be looking at is this: justice is absolutely important, but peace and domestic reconciliation are equally important. Once upon a time, the LRA had domestic support and was funded. The question that we should therefore be asking is: how can we create a situation in which domestic issues can be satisfactorily resolved before they get out of control or are hijacked in the way in which the LRA and Joseph Kony have hijacked such issues? It is also important, as many people have pointed out, that we should be looking not merely to the ICC to provide an answer, but also to domestic justice mechanisms. For example, in the Acholi tribe in Uganda, to which Kony belongs, there is a very conventional way of dealing with situations of this kind, which is called mato oput. It involves admission of guilt, asking for forgiveness and paying compensation. This is not enough, because things will go wrong, but nevertheless it provides one important way in which a traditional society is able to deal with crimes of this kind. While the ICC is necessary, we ought also to try to integrate traditional mechanisms of justice, restoration and reconciliation into the ICC procedure.
My Lords, for nearly two decades the LRA roamed across northern Uganda, causing 2 million people to flee their homes, and tens of thousands to be kidnapped, mutilated and killed. Over that time, more than 20,000 children were killed. Violence and disease killed 1,000 a week at the height of the conflict, and more than 70,000 people are still in IDP camps.
Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed mystic, led the Lord’s Resistance Army on a massacre of civilians, as other noble Lords have commented, slicing off the lips of survivors and kidnapping children for use as soldiers, porters and sex slaves. Threatening to destabilise the whole of the region, Kony has repeatedly failed to sign a final peace deal, demanding that he should not be prosecuted by the ICC for war crimes.
Following the ICC’s indictment of Joseph Kony, the African Union formally designated the LRA as a terrorist group, accusing it of murder, rape and child kidnappings in east and central Africa. The AU’s security commissioner, Ramtane Lamamra, called on the UN Security Council to do the same. He has urged all countries to declare the LRA to be terrorists and to forbid its criminal activities on their territory. Mr Lamamra has welcomed the support for the AU by the recent US deployment of 100 specialist troops and appealed to other international partners to,
“reinforce and support … our own regional states in order to enhance their efficiency in fighting the LRA”.
It is of some concern that reports are circulating that Uganda is complaining that the Congo is obstructing its US-backed hunt for Kony. General Jean Claude Kifwa, leading the fight against the LRA for the Congo, has dismissed tensions with Uganda, suggesting Uganda may be dragging its feet in the hunt for Kony. Mistrust between Congolese and Ugandan forces has hampered the sharing of key intelligence and operational plans by the Ugandans, and tensions between Uganda and the DRC have not abated.
Ida Sawyer, a leading Congo analyst with Human Rights Watch, has commented that:
“On their own, regional governments have not shown the capability or resolve to protect civilians from LRA abuses, or…capture the LRA’s top leaders”.
In 2009, the successful author, Jane Bussmann, published a harrowing account of her experiences with the LRA. She, too, confirmed the lack of commitment in the Kony capture plans.
The AU’s efforts will only be the sum of its parts. Two years ago, an AU-led regional initiative was agreed. It included installing a 5,000-strong regional task force and three tactical sector headquarters, a joint operations centre and a joint co-ordination mechanism. Has this initiative been abandoned in favour of the new announcement? Over the past few days, the AU has announced that arrangements for a regional force are in place, seemingly a knee-jerk reaction to the “Stop Kony” video. Comprising troops from Uganda, South Sudan, the CAR and the DRC, it will be based in Yambio. What confidence do our Government have that this plan will overcome the operational tensions and shortages in key equipment and resources any better than previous joint operations?
There is a lack of resources, particularly in intelligence-gathering, military analysis, logistics and air troop transport, over this huge region. Can the Minister confirm when the joint operational centre in Dungu became available, when it became operational and how the required resources are expected to be provided?
Finally, what opportunities are our Government creating to liaise with Governments in the region to provide co-ordination and communication resources for communities to complete early warning systems such as cellphone tower networks, the completion of which has been extremely slow?
My Lords, I too warmly congratulate my noble friend on securing this debate and on his comprehensive and powerful opening speech.
I will never forget visiting northern Uganda during the LRA’s reign of terror and talking to children and teenagers who had escaped from Kony’s army, with experiences similar to those highlighted by my noble friend. One girl, aged 13, wept as she recalled the morning when she was forced to kill a boy with a panga knife and drink his blood. She still had nightmares but asked, “What else could I do? It was either him or me”. Justin, aged 14, described how he had been abducted, force-marched to a training camp in a Khartoum-controlled area in South Sudan, beaten, kept hungry, given live ammunition and forced to use other children as target practice. One terrible day, his friend tried to escape but was recaptured, staked out on the ground and Justin and his other friends were forced to trample him to death. Then Justin broke down, telling how the LRA had killed his father as a punishment for his escape, so he feels guilty for the death of his dad.
I recount these memories—and there are many more—because such horrors will be being replicated today wherever Kony and his LRA troops are terrorising local people. I hope that they highlight the urgent need to put an end to their activities, and for resources for rehabilitation for individuals who have been traumatised, such as those young people. In northern Uganda, young people who had been victims of LRA atrocities desperately wanted education, to put their past behind them and to build a future. At that time, the Uganda Government did not provide free secondary education. I hope that any countries where young people are now suffering in similar ways will provide access to appropriate education to promote healing as well as an opportunity to develop independence, self-esteem and dignity.
Mention of South Sudan as the location where Justin was taken for training highlights the close relationship between the LRA and the notorious President of the Republic of Sudan, al-Bashir, who is also wanted by the ICC. He gave land to Kony’s LRA to carry out their training and perpetrate their atrocities on local people in South Sudan, including murder, rape, abduction of individuals and destruction of property. Although the LRA is not so active in South Sudan at the moment, there is always a fear that Khartoum has used it to try to destabilise the new republic—and may do so again.
The concerns I have identified highlight the urgency of the need to apprehend Kony and his troops. The case for his indictment by the ICC is clear, as failure to do so may encourage perpetrators of atrocities to believe that they can continue to carry them out with impunity elsewhere.
However, I finish with one plea by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Gulu, who suggested that, if Kony is sent to The Hague and his trial takes place far away from the people who have suffered at his hands, they may not understand the western approach to punishment, which is culturally very different from their traditional customs, with sophisticated procedures of public repentance, recompense and ultimate reconciliation, as was highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Parekh. The archbishop’s wise consideration of the divergence between the demands for justice as seen by the international community and the expectations of local people may be a salutary reminder of the need to consult those who have suffered most when rulings are made far away and in a foreign context, and to consider ways of bridging the gap so that victims and their communities who have suffered so much can feel that justice has been done for them, their needs have been met and true healing can begin.
I conclude by asking the Minister how Her Majesty’s Government intend to use the presidency of the UN Security Council to try to bring this matter to a conclusion.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his dogged focus on equatorial Africa and for drawing our attention to the atrocities there. I hope Her Majesty’s Government will see this as a unique time to garner the resources and international political will to arrest Joseph Kony and other LRA leaders.
Definite figures are hard to come by, but it is estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 children have become child soldiers to swell the ranks of the LRA, and that nearly half a million people are currently internally displaced. The mutilation, abductions, and killings have been systematic, but it is equally shocking that this has been going on since 1986—just over 25 years. Before even thinking of other conflicts that have come and gone during this time, but merely of the natural disasters that have rightly demanded the world’s priority, I wonder why this situation of similar gravity seems never to be at the top of the priority list of the international community. The resources needed to heal former child soldiers alone are enormous. This is a unique time simply because, looking back, this has gone on for far too long.
In addition, over this time much international intervention has been perceived to have occurred only where western economic interests or security were at stake, particularly oil. The arrest of Joseph Kony is an international justice issue which could do something to correct that perception. It is most encouraging that the Americans have sent 100 non-combatant troops to assist the regional forces in capturing Joseph Kony. Will the UK Government consider sending similar assistance or lobbying the UN for further resource? Although the US admits that the UPDF is
“a flawed and uncertain instrument for defeating the LRA”,
there does not seem to be any other realistic option, and capturing Kony would, many believe, dissolve the LRA, as it clearly has no economic or political agenda and cloaks itself in messianic terms to give purpose to its spurious existence.
Furthermore, surely the reputation of the ICC, whose arrest warrant has been outstanding since 2005, demands that Joseph Kony be captured and tried according to law? This unique time for the ICC could also provide the momentum to capture Kony. Will the Minister please give some indication of the UK Government’s view as to whether offering a reward would assist in his capture? I believe that with the necessary political will and logistic support he can be arrested.
It is most persuasively a unique time because, as the chief prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Ocampo, has said, the “Kony 2012” campaign has “mobilised the world”. Of course this campaign is not without contention, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, outlined: it incorrectly focuses on northern Uganda, where the LRA previously operated, and the attempt to make Joseph Kony famous rather than infamous may not resonate correctly with local people. However, in less than four weeks, over 100 million people viewed this video, and it is the first example of campaigning created by and aimed at generation Y. It has been viewed mainly by people under the age of 25 in the US, Canada and the UK—more by women than men—and this is a group traditionally not engaged with politics. However, given the right issue, this group will campaign politically and I and, I suspect, PICT are grateful that viewing the video did not have the option to e-mail one’s MP. This political use of social media will in the future require deft footwork by Whitehall and politicians to keep up.
As Rachael Smith of the Millenials Think Tank has commented:
“What the Kony 2012 video has unleashed is the feeling of empowerment amongst a generation that has struggled to find their voice through conventional channels. What this campaign has done is highlight the power of social media to carry a message, a desire and to make demands”.
It is immensely encouraging that the issue young people have decided to focus on is a justice issue which deeply affects children. I urge Her Majesty’s Government to support them.
My Lords, the Kony T-shirt makes me shudder. I agree with my noble friend that the viral video may have made some important mistakes, notably the assumption that its principal actor is still in Uganda. However, as the noble Baroness has just said, it has alerted millions to the glaring fact that this arch-criminal, after years of being hunted, has still not been caught. The video focuses on Uganda because that is where the atrocities have mainly taken place, and where there are still terrible memories of thousands of mutilated or tortured children and bereaved families. I have met President Museveni and his wife Janet several times here and in Kampala, and I have been a UK patron of her trust to help orphans and AIDS victims in Uganda. I have great respect for what they have achieved, mainly the growing stability and increased prosperity of a country that was ravaged by previous rulers, but there is a legacy of neglect of the north and of the Acholi people for which the Ugandan Government carry a heavy responsibility. It was in those conditions that Kony and his fellow torturers were able to flourish, giving Kampala the pretext to clamp down everywhere. Opposition has been regularly suppressed by the President to the point of even frequently arresting his own former doctor and his allies.
The area concerned is immense. The Anglican Diocese of Northern Uganda is located within the districts of Gulu and Amuru and covers an area of over 11,000 square kilometres. Most of its population of about 450,000 people were internally displaced and confined to as many as 51 IDP camps. Even now that the area has returned to relative peace, about 20 per cent of those displaced have still not returned to their villages. According to the UNHCR, 90 per cent have gone home and about 125,000 remain in need of assistance. This mass resettlement has put pressure on already weakened family support systems, social services supplied by churches and charities, and natural resources. As the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, said, many victims will always bear the scars of the brutality of Kony’s irregulars.
I believe that the Ugandan army has done a lot to pursue the LRA over many years and, as we have heard, it is now being assisted by the US. Leaflets are regularly distributed to encourage defections, and children occasionally escape. I suggest that it is largely because Kampala has failed to develop and control the north that Kony has been able to evade the Ugandan army for so long.
In this country and within this Parliament, we have had strongly links with Uganda, not least because of the presence of several Peers and Members of Parliament who were born in Uganda and bring direct knowledge to our debates. I suggest that we do more than we are doing at the moment. The noble Lord, Lord Popat, is travelling to Uganda today to visit the Parliament in Kampala and will also visit the business community. Our economy has benefited from many Ugandan Asians who were the victims of past tyrannies and we must encourage and have encouraged their safe return home. We have had frequent exchanges through the Commonwealth in order to share methods and technology, and may they long continue. However, much work still needs to be done to strengthen institutions concerned with the rule of law, democratic government and human rights in Uganda. I hope the Minister will reassure us that the UK energetically supports this work as well as the development projects in the north with which we were concerned a few years ago. I do not know whether we still are. Oil discoveries on Lake Albert are good news, but they do not always solve problems. They can aggravate them.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this important debate and I associate myself with what he and others said to the effect that Joseph Kony is unspeakably evil. He has been responsible for barbarity and causing human misery on a massive scale.
I would like to say a word or two about the power of the internet. The “Kony 2012” video by Jason Russell has done a great deal that is good. As others have said, it has brought the activities of the LRA and Joseph Kony to the attention of the world. It has had a substantial impact on millions of people, young people in particular, whose awareness of what has happened and interest in international politics has been awakened in a remarkable way. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, that that is all to the good. However, we need to be careful because the video has undoubtedly caused some considerable offence in Africa, particularly in Uganda, because of its implication that Uganda now is associated with the horrors of what went on some years ago. The reality is that there has been great progress. The LRA has not been active in Uganda for some time. Its numbers are reduced and the northern region is now largely peaceful. It is important for peoples and government to develop a culture in relation to the internet that benefits from the increase in awareness that it brings but that is also more critical and less sensitive to internet publications. In that way, the best can be achieved and the worst can be avoided.
I join the noble Lord, Lord Bates, in calling for greater and broader support for the International Criminal Court. It is 10 years since the Rome statute established it. While the ICC has been hugely welcome, it has in many ways been a disappointing decade in terms of solid achievement. The conviction of the warlord Thomas Lubanga for coercion of children as soldiers has been its first success and is to be hugely welcomed, but it has been a long time coming.
In some ways, that has been the result of internal problems at the court and a lack of direction. It is to be hoped that the appointment of a dynamic new chief prosecutor in Fatou Bensouda will make a difference. It is also to be hoped that the ICC will widen the scope of its investigations to look at countries outside Africa, to which its attention has so far been largely directed. But the absence of important states—the United States, China and Russia—as signatories to the Rome statute has been and remains the principal difficulty facing the ICC and imperils its future success.
One reason for that is that if the ICC wishes to prosecute crimes by states not party—let us remember that Uganda and the DRC are both states party—the only route to prosecution is referral by the UN Security Council. With the United States, Russia and China as permanent members of the Security Council, such referrals are difficult to secure because unanimity is difficult to achieve. The normal route has been by the establishment of a commission of inquiry, as in Darfur and Libya, followed by a referral by the Security Council. There is room for diplomatic efforts to work on three fronts: first, to persuade non-signatories to join the Rome statute; secondly, to work within the United Nations to secure referrals from the UN Security Council; and, thirdly, to redouble efforts by the United Kingdom Government and other Governments to support the ICC in its work and to emphasise its importance.
To take two examples that I mentioned when the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, asked a Question of my noble friend last Thursday, it would, for instance, be a major step forward if we could secure referrals in respect of Myanmar and North Korea. Both countries have histories of well documented abuse of human rights by the regime. In Myanmar, where for many years the imprisonment and torture of political opponents of the regime has been routine, there are encouraging signs of progress. But that should not stand in the way of bringing the perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice. In North Korea, the imprisonment of families of dissenters has led to the children of dissenters being imprisoned for the dissent of their parents.
These misdeeds should not be protected; their perpetrators should be pursued in the same way that Joseph Kony is now rightly being pursued. The role of the ICC is to work towards achieving that. Everything the international community and the United Kingdom Government can do to further that aim must be done.
My Lords, perhaps I may add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating this debate and for bringing to it, in his usual way, his extensive expertise and understanding of the subject. The conviction last week of Thomas Lubanga by the ICC, which was just mentioned, represents real progress for international justice and confirms that the judges were being scrupulously fair. Now, attention must focus on the others accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including war criminals such as Charles Taylor, Gbagbo, Bashir, Saif al-Islam and, of course, Joseph Kony and his collaborators in the terrible crimes that they have committed. All these need to remain a priority for the court.
I do not want to say too much about the Invisible Children video, except to observe that it is somewhat simplistic, patronising to Africans and—in some respects, as many noble Lords have said—misleading, particularly on the issue of where Kony is. He may be in Uganda; he moves in and out of the borders of the DRC, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. That is how he operates; you never really know where he is. Even with its limitations the video does, however, prove the power of celebrity and social networks, as other noble Lords have said. We have learnt a serious lesson for when we want to get a message across.
Now Obama’s boys, as the US contingent in the region is called, operate from bases in all the threatened countries, and military efforts effectively operate alongside efforts to persuade Kony’s followers to defect. When one of Kony’s many so-called wives saw a photo recently of another “wife” smiling out of a leaflet, proving that she had escaped to safety, she also decided to flee. Incidentally, that leaflet was another Invisible Children initiative and was published in three local languages.
It is estimated that Kony’s force now totals something in the region of 200 to 500, down from thousands at its peak. That is encouraging but it emphatically does not mean that the LRA is a spent force, or that it has lost the capacity to attack or to terrorise communities. Last year we saw 278 attacks, and there have been 20 this year in the DRC, forcing 3,000 people to flee their homes. The affected countries will need assistance and support and, as a US State Department official recently said, what we think about where Joseph Kony is is not as important as where the four regional armies think he is. The four countries—the DRC, Uganda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan—have agreed to work together on this, which represents real progress. We should strongly emphasise the need for African government leaders, institutions and civil society to have a central role in these efforts.
The reality is that we will certainly not see a US “Black Hawk Down”-style military debacle, such as we saw in Somalia. The campaign generated by the video in recent weeks has succeeded in hardening the US commitment to engagement against the LRA, however, and has led to more co-ordinated and concerted action. But there are justifiable anxieties in America, especially ahead of the US election, about US servicemen being killed in Africa, which will naturally prevent the US Army from going beyond its “advise and assist” role. We may, therefore, see other kinds of interventions such as the use of drones and other technologies, including the essential building of cellphone towers and early warning systems in the regions. These provisions will allow for “find and capture” Special Forces operations without resorting to more heavy-handed military intervention. It is also important that the AU has launched its “regional co-operation initiative” to end the LRA—the first time that has happened. This has taken time because of reconciling the demands of its own member states and its main financial backer, the European Union.
All the evidence shows the need never to underestimate the ability of the LRA to resist capture. We hear that approximate locations are known to Governments, the UN and NGOs. What apparently is missing is the ability to act in a timely and effective way.
My Lords, I think we are all extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for raising this important and, in many ways, grim topic. He is right—so are several other noble Lords—that the unprecedented and astonishing response to the “Kony 2012” campaign has highlighted the British public’s strength of feeling about the Lord’s Resistance Army and its appalling activities. The UK Government completely share that concern. We utterly condemn the atrocities carried out on the orders of Joseph Kony.
I am pleased that the dreadful human suffering at the hands of the LRA is getting increased public attention. I welcome that, as did the noble Lord, Lord Alton. I assure your Lordships that the UK Government remain very actively involved. We continue to work with international partners to disband the LRA and to bring to justice Joseph Kony and the other LRA leaders who have been indicted by the International Criminal Court. However, we should recognise that apprehending Kony has not been, and will not be, an easy task. The noble Baroness has rightly just warned us that although the LRA may be diminished in number, it remains an extremely dangerous operating force, casting a deep shadow over the entire vast region. It is estimated that there are about 300 remaining fighters operating in a huge area, across remote and immensely hostile terrain. Previous military attempts to stop the LRA have always resulted in brutal revenge attacks, casting a paralysing feeling of terror over the whole area. A concerted international effort is certainly therefore still required to bring Kony to justice, and the UK is playing a key role in this.
The UK leads on the LRA at the UN Security Council. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, that we are taking a very active role there in bringing the issue to the fore. We secured the UN Security Council presidential statement of November last year, which has tasked the UN to deliver a coherent, co-ordinated and results-focused regional strategy to combat the LRA. We have pressed for better co-ordination and intelligence-sharing between the UN peacekeeping operations—MONUSCO—which are mandated to provide protection for civilians who are at risk from the LRA. The UK is an active member of the international working group to co-ordinate the international response to the regional problems of the LRA. We have pushed for increased co-operation among regional Governments to bring Joseph Kony and other LRA leaders to justice. We will continue to discuss the issue with Governments in all the countries affected by the LRA.
Our contributions through the EU have been instrumental in supporting the EU’s multifaceted approach to the LRA. The aim is to ensure that the struggle against the LRA is pursued on the civilian front as well as the diplomatic and military front in a comprehensive way. With the support of international partners, including the EU, the African Union has been able to develop a regional counter-LRA operation, which includes a regional task force—an operation constituted of Ugandan, Congolese, South Sudanese and Central African Republic troops in the region. We speak to the ICC regularly and provide it with updates on the pursuit of Kony. Noble Lords have raised the ICC issue, on which there may be time to make a further comment.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked whether DfID’s aid was associated with conditions. DfID’s aid to the DRC is on an enormous scale—£790 million over the four years 2011-15. The programme covers a diverse range of issues, including work to improve standards of transparency in the trade in natural resources, support to promote economic development through improved networks of roads, better access to education and work to reform the security sector to make it better administered and more accountable. I have to qualify what I say, but I hope that meets most of his concerns on that front.
I wish to say a brief word about the ICC, which was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Bates and Lord Marks. The broader issue of why the ICC is not signed up to by great powers such as the United States and China is a matter that we have debated fully. I would love to have more time to speculate with the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on why the USA will not sign up to it. It expressed its fears at the time and we have debated them since in the Chamber. I must leave the issue there, but he is absolutely right that it remains a great hole in the entire ICC system.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, also asked who funds the LRA. We are advised that there is no particular outside source of funds. It just grabs resources from civilians, villages and from wherever it can. Who arms the LRA? The answer is that it attacks check points and seizes caches of arms and weapons. Again, we do not have any evidence of any systematic outside help on that. Why is there no pooled intelligence? There is now pooled intelligence. The joint intelligence operation centre in Dongo has now started and we seconded an officer there about a year ago. The British officer is a major director of the operation there and, of course, we fund him. As for the protection of the civilian population, it is reasonable to ask why it has all taken so long to get these things organised. We now have the MONUSCO disarmament and repatriation programme and the AU’s regional task force has now formed and is now deploying. Indeed, it is just starting work this week by setting up operations in South Sudan. As we are debating this matter, it will open in a few days.
Many other fascinating points were raised by people very closely concerned with this. My noble friend Lady Berridge asked why there was no reward for capture. The difficulty is that there are so many militias and groups searching around for Joseph Kony, including those now getting organised through the AU and MONUSCO, and so many different sources of intelligence. There is also such terror in the villages about he what will do to them that I am not sure that that would work, but it is an interesting idea to put forward.
Can we do a lot more in Uganda? We certainly can do more, although the aid to Uganda programme is very extensive at the moment. I have a long list of the different programmes of support, which there is no time to read out, that have been pushed by DfID in committing £100 million to post-conflict development in northern Uganda over the current five-year period: building legitimacy and improving the capacity of local government to deliver services to the public; supporting government, civil society and communities to engage in peacebuilding and reconciliation, and many other matters that are simply impossible to recite in the time available. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, spoke eloquently about the issue, as did the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who said that we should do more in Uganda. The noble Lord, Lord Marks, also mentioned the ICC issue. The noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, spoke with considerable knowledge of the area.
I reiterate the importance of the work that the UK is doing, alongside the international community, in bringing this individual—or monster, as some call Kony—to justice. We are working with the UN, the AU, the EU and the ICC constantly to that aim. We provide aid to reduce the threat of the LRA. In this financial year alone, we have contributed £384,000 to MONUSCO’s demobilisation, disarmament, repatriation and reintegration programme. Through DfID we have committed £100 million, as I mentioned, to promote development of northern Uganda as it recovers from two decades of horrific war with the LRA. This five-year programme is half way through and showing some impressive results, such as a lowering of poverty levels in the region. Through this programme we have worked with the Government of Uganda’s peace, recovery and development plan for the north, which has allowed the vast majority of people who have been displaced by the LRA’s activities to return home.
We will continue to work in the region through a wide range of activities to ensure that civilians are protected and can go about their lives without the threat of the LRA. I want to reaffirm the United Kingdom’s commitment to working with our regional partners and the wider international community to bring an end to the LRA’s reign of terror and to bring Joseph Kony and his leaders to justice. I thank noble Lords for their attention, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for raising the matter, and all your Lordships for speaking so eloquently.