UGANDA: FORMER LRA FIGHTERS FEAR NEW ICD COURT MAY NOT HONOR AMNESTY CERTIFICATES, SEEK PROTECTION

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Ms. Kasande (L), Ms. Mabinti (C) Mr. Jimmy Ocogo (R), at the Public Dialogue.

“I say this with a heavy heart. Victims are saying that they may never see justice because it is taking too long to deliver justice. There is confusion concerning Amnesty certificates and the trial of Kwoyelo who is indicted by the ICD. There is now fear among those former rebels who got amnesty certificates that they may be arrested like Mr. Acellam who was rumored to have been arrested about two weeks ago. How do we help them overcome this fear?”

“We do not feel that Amnesty Certificates will be cancelled although the JLOS and DPP have not yet come out on that. Transitional Justice provision signed between the government and the LRA during the Juba Peace Talks is still valid to date”

GULU-UGANDA: Fear has gripped the camp of former fighters of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels with Amnesty certificates that the new International Crime Division (ICD) of the High Court may not honor their certificates as one former LRA commander Mr. Thomas Kwoyelo, has already been arrested and is currently before court.

This fear was expressed by a number of people, including a prominent human rights activist, Ms. Rosalba Oywa, on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 during a public dialogue to commemorate the International Justice Day. The dialogue took place at St. Monica Tailoring Center in Gulu Municipalty under the theme: ‘Humanity Against Crime’.

Two weeks ago, Gulu was washed with rumors that a prominent former LRA commander, Mr. Caesar Acellam, who surrendered early during the insurgency and got Amnesty certificate, was arrested by security officers for his roles in the LRA.

“I say this with a heavy heart. Victims are saying that they may never see justice in the near future because it is taking too long to deliver justice. There is confusion concerning Amnesty certificates and the trial of Kwoyelo who is indicted by the ICD. There is now fear among those former rebels who got amnesty certificates that they may be arrested like Mr. Acellam who was rumored to have been arrested about two weeks ago. How do we help them overcome this fear?” says Ms. Oywa. 

The dialogue was organized to commemorate the twenty-first anniversary of the International Justice Day by the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Outreach Coordinator for Uganda and Kenya in conjunction with the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) to recognize the strength of International Justice and to remember the rights of victims.

Ms. Sarah Kihika Kasande of the ICTJ assured former LRA fighters with amnesty certificates that although the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) and the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) have not come out with Transitional Justice (TJ) policy, they do not feel that the Amnesty Certificates will be cancelled.  

“We do not feel that Amnesty Certificates will be cancelled although the JLOS and DPP have not yet come out on that. Transitional Justice provision signed between the government and the LRA during the Juba Peace Talks is still valid to date”, says Ms. Kasande.

ICTJ is a non-governmental organization established to ensure that societies break the cycle of massive human rights violations and lay the foundation for peace, justice and inclusiveness.

She says this is in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 16 which promotes just, peaceful and inclusive societies that leave no one behind.

“Humanity has to be united. Without justice, there can be no lasting peace, democracy, justice and accountability. This is not celebration only but to re-commit ourselves. It is a time to reassure the victims and perpetuators that there should be no more impunity”, says. Ms. Kasande. 

In 2006, the Government of Uganda and the LRA commenced peace talks to end the conflict in Northern Uganda which had already lasted twenty years.  In June 2007, the government and LRA signed an annexure to the final Peace Agreement on Accountability and Reconciliation, which required the government to establish both formal and non-formal justice mechanisms to address Accountability and Reparation for atrocities committed in northern Uganda.

In line with the Juba Peace Agreement calling for the establishment of accountability mechanisms for crimes perpetuated during the conflict the government established the War Crimes Division in 2008, now the International Crimes Division of the High Court to try individuals suspected of committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, terrorism, human trafficking and piracy in the court.  

The ICC’s Outreach Coordinator for Uganda and Kenya situations, Ms. Maria Kamara Mabinti, says the role of the Court is to ensure that justice is delivered impartially and that means every side to a case must be heard.

“That is why trials go on. In the case of Dominic Ongwen, it is up to the prosecutor to provide strong evidence beyond reasonable doubt. He is considered innocent until proven otherwise. He has a strong legal team to defend him. He has interpreters to enable him understand the case against him”, says Ms. Mabinti.

 

                                                                                                                                                      

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