Uganda withdraws objection to publication of DRC experts’ report

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), principal judicial organ of the UN, holds public hearings (by video link) in the case concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda) at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court, as from 20 April 2021. Sessions held under the presidency of Judge Joan E. Donoghue, President of the Court. The CourtÕs role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States (its Judgments are final and binding) and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized UN organs and agencies.

Uganda has withdrawn its objection to making public expert reports in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) war reparations case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), at The Hague, Netherlands.

Uganda had raised objections to demand by the DRC for the expert reports to be released as the court opened for oral proceedings on April 20, 2021.

Uganda’s Attorney General, William Byaruhanga however withdrew the objection last week ahead of the closure of open hearings of the case last Friday.

“I have the honour to further inform the court that Uganda hereby withdraws its objection and consent to the reports of the court-appointed experts and related documents being made accessible to the public,” Byaruhanga said in an April 28, 2021, letter to the ICJ registrar, Phillipe Gautier.

The ICJ appointed four experts to write reports that will likely be based on when judges make judgment. The experts are; Debarati Guha-Sapir, a Professor of Public Health at the University of Louvain (Belgium) and Director of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters; Michael Nest, Environmental Governance Advisor for the European Union’s Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-corruption Programme in Ghana and former conflict minerals analyst for United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Great Lakes Region; Geoffrey Senogles, a Partner at Senogles & Co., a Chartered Accountants Firm in Switzerland and Henrik Urda, a Research Professor and Director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (Norway).

Despite the reports not being public, lawyers representing Uganda were arguing that experts had not produced compelling evidence. They also argued that the lawyers for Congo were also heavily relying on these reports to demand compensation.

For instance, Guha-Sapir urged judges to reject Uganda’s argument that DR Congo should produce death certificates of people it claims were killed by Ugandan soldiers during the 1997-2003 war.

She argued that institutions registering deaths were non-existent in Eastern DRC during the war and there were no incentives for people to obtain certificates for dead relatives.
“So, I think it cannot go without saying that death certificates or civil registration is not going to be a source of any data,” said Sapir.

Referring to Sean Murphy—one of the lawyers representing Uganda who was questioning the lack of death certificates, Sapir said it could be possible to collect death certificates of hundreds of dead people in Washington (where Murphy lives), but in Congo, it’s impossible. Thus, he said Uganda’s demands are unrealistic.

According to documents DR Congo submitted, it claims that about 180,000 of its civilians died due to wrongful acts attributable to Uganda. It said 40,000 of those deaths resulted from “deliberate acts of violence” against the population in Ituri, while another 140,000 resulted from “situations other than those of deliberate acts of violence” in Ituri, Kisangani and elsewhere.

For each of these 40,000 deaths, DR Congo claims $34,000 (Shs 124.1 million) per victim while for each of the other 140,000 alleged deaths, the DRC claims just over $18,900 (Shs 68.9 million) per victim.

And Geoffrey Senogles, one of the court-appointed experts suggested a figure ($30,000 [Shs 109.5 million) that is close to what DR Congo is demanding for each of its citizens it claims died due to “deliberate acts of violence” by Uganda soldiers.

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