Maria Kamara Mabinti, the ICC Outreach Coordinator for East Africa
An official of the International Criminal Court-ICC has revealed that fraudsters are extorting money from victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army-LRA insurgency in Northern Uganda under the pretext of registering them as beneficiaries of the reparation program.
Maria Kamara Mabinti, the ICC Outreach Coordinator for East Africa noted this registration of the war victim is happening in the case locations.
Although she didn’t name the case locations, Kamara says the organizations are charging about 20,000 shillings for very individual fir registration.
The registration of the victims, Kamara stated, is ‘illegal’, adding that the ICC reparation program, which ICC has not yet rolled out, will be done free of charge.
“No reparation has been ordered…because recently, we got information that in certain communities, some people are already going out registering people, asking for twenty thousand Ugandan shillings to be registered for reparations. Let me emphasize this, no reparations have been ordered by the judges.” Says Maria
Kamara also declined to disclose the identity of the organizations extorting money from the victims. She says the reparations shall only kickoff after the final ruling of Ongwen’s case before the Appeals Chamber.
The ICC, through the Trust Fund for Victims, is currently consulting selected organizations and individuals on how victims can benefit from reparations in northern Uganda following the sentencing of Dominic Ongwen to 25 years in prison.
The organizations being consulted include Amuria Development Agency in Teso Sub–Region, Uganda Victims Association in Lira, Child Youth Initiative, Foundation for Justice and Development Initiative-FJDI, Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative –ARLPI, and Gulu Women Economic Development and Globalization –GWED –G, among others.
In May last year, ICC found Ongwen found guilty of a total of 61 crimes comprising war crimes and crimes against humanity in Northern Uganda between July 1 and December 31, 2015.
His defense lawyers, however, appealed the sentencing with the judgment of the appeal expected to be delivered in December this year by the ICC Appeals Chamber. If the appeals chamber upholds his sentencing, victims of the war in which Ongwen is convicted will receive reparation for the harms they have suffered during the insurgency.
Justin Ocan, the LRA war victim’s representative from Lukodi in Gulu District however says they have not yet registered any case of extortion on Lukodi and also appealed to the victims to be very vigilant.
Stella Lanam, the Executive Director of War Victims and Children Networking revealed in an interview that they apprehended three organizations last year for extorting the money from the victims for registration, adding that the organizations were only cautioned against the vice.
Lanam says they are currently monitoring such organizations, adding that those involved in such nefarious dealings will be arrested, charged, and prosecuted.
Last month, Jelena Vukasinovic, the ICC Chief Country Office Uganda told Journalists at The Hague that the outreach team will engage in the identification of LRA victims of the LRA in northern once they receive instructions from Judges.
The victims who participated in the trial of Ongwen, she noted, were only granted the right to participate in the Ongwen trial, adding that this does not necessarily represent the number of beneficiaries for the reparation. A total of 4,095 victims were granted the right to participate in Ongwen’s trial and they were represented by two teams of lawyers.