Swiss intermediary met alleged war criminal

A Swiss expert held negotiations with a Ugandan rebel leader wanted for war crimes, the foreign ministry confirmed on Friday.

This content was published on September 12, 2008 - 22:04

The intermediary, Julian Hottinger, told the Tagesanzeiger newspaper that he had met Joseph Kony, leader of the so-called Lord's Resistance Army, about six times between 2006 and 2008.

The meetings occurred despite the fact that the International Criminal Court (ICC) had issued arrest warrants against Kony and three of his commanders in 2005, on suspicion of war crimes and genocide.

The Lord's Resistance Army, which has been fighting the Ugandan government since 1986, has a reputation for extreme brutality.

Hottinger's mission, which he described as "very delicate", was the first time Switzerland had dealt with anyone facing an ICC warrant. He said he had not tried to arrest Kony.

"How could I have handcuffed Kony? If I had tried, I wouldn't be here to tell the tale," he told the newspaper.

A cease fire was agreed between the two sides in February, but Kony refused to sign it until the charges against him were withdrawn. The Ugandan government declared in June that the cease fire was a failure.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey defended Hottinger's mission. "We achieved a cease fire which saved lives, » she told Swiss television.

The revelations come in the wake of a controversial speech last month in which Calmy-Rey defended the use of dialogue even with groups regarded as "beyond the pale".

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