Congo Plunder Case: Ignore Uganda's Calls for Death Certificates, ICJ Told

Debarati Guha-Sapir, the Director of Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster (CRED) and a Professor at University of Louvain School of Public Health, in Brussels has urged International Court of Justice -ICJ to ignore argument by Uganda that Democratic Republic of Congo must produce evidence such as death certificates in its claim for compensation.
24 Apr 2021 16:25
Debarati-Guha-Sapir addressed ICJ on Friday

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A UN expert Debarati Guha-Sapir, has asked the International Court of Justice to ignore demands by Uganda that DRC must produce evidence like death certificates to prove that its citizens died when the UPDF was deployed in Ituri almost 23 years ago.

The UPDF was between 1998-2003 deployed in DRC’s Ituri province to pursue Ugandan insurgents allegedly operating from there. DRC however dragged Uganda to the International Court of Justice accusing it of having invaded its territory, caused deaths of its citizens and looted minerals. DRC alleged that 180,000 of its civilian 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, the DRC claims US$34,000 per victim. For each of the other 140,000 alleged deaths, the DRC claims just over US$18,900 per victim.

The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga and a hired international lawyer, Sean Murphy while representing Uganda the DRC in filing the claims doesn’t adduce evidence which should ordinarily be available even in times of war.

Uganda also insists that DRC must provide indisputable evidence such as death certificates showing that Uganda soldiers were responsible for these deaths.

But Debarati Guha-Sapir, whose report was relied on by DRC to demand compensation, told ICJ on Friday that in conflict areas, recording death certificates is near to impossible. She argued that at the time of war, institutions that record death were non-existent. 

Guha-Sapir, a Professor at University of Louvain School of Public Health told court that at the time in contention there were no incentives for people to go and record death because it would bring “no benefit.”

     //Cue in: “anybody who has… 

 Cue out:…of any data.”//

Guha-Sapir, the Director of Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster (CRED) has been involved in several Epidemiology surveys around Africa including deaths in the Ituri province.  

Lawrence Martin, one of the many lawyers representing Uganda told court on Thursday: “None of these figures ⎯ whether those relating to the alleged number of deaths or the quantum of compensation sought ⎯ is supported by any evidence; the DRC’s claims concerning the number of deaths Uganda allegedly caused are, with respect, a house of conjecture built atop a foundation of speculation.”

Sean Murphy, a Professor of International Law at George Washington University Law School, is representing Uganda argued that DRC based its compensation claim on broad observations made by the court in 2005 when it ruled that Uganda armed forces violated human right law which caused harm to persons and property as well as a broad conclusion that there was the exploitation of DRC’s natural resources.

“That assertion about the inability to gather evidence relating to war is demonstrably untrue. Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait did not prevent victims or their families from identifying to the UN compensation commission the names of those who died.”  He said     

 The ICJ on Tuesday reopened the proceedings of the 2005 case Uganda lost to Congo after the two countries failed to agree on compensation figure. Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi soldiers helped DRC’s late President Laurent Kabila ascend to power in 1997, overthrowing dictator Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga. 

As Kabila settled in office, he disagreed with the foreign forces that helped him capture  power. Consequently, he asked them to leave. When Uganda and Rwanda declined to withdraw, Kabila sued them at the ICJ for alleged invasion.  Uganda argued that its military's presence and activities in DRC were, for the most part, based on an invitation and were authorized by the Congolese administration.


When Uganda lost the case in 2005, DRC’s lawyers argued for a reparation figure of US$10 billion which was awarded. However, the court asked the two parties to get together and come up with a figure that is agreeable to both because Uganda protested the claims. 


 Unclear is when and how Congo ended claiming $23 billion which it has now reduced to $13.5 billion as per Byaruhanga’s presentation.



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