LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An amnesty given to rebels who took part in a brutal guerrilla war in northern Uganda is a betrayal of their victims and has derailed attempts to bring other fighters to justice, a rights campaigner said on Wednesday.
“The issue of amnesty in Uganda is stifling the ability of the domestic war crimes court to prosecute,” Brigid Inger, executive director of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, told a global summit in London on tackling sexual violence in conflict.
Thousands of former fighters have been pardoned under Uganda’s Amnesty Act, which was designed to bring an end to the war which raged for two decades. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by warlord Joseph Kony, committed widespread atrocities against civilians including horrendous sexual violence. Thousands of children were abducted and used as soldiers and sex slaves.
Inger said it was very hard for survivors because those responsible for serious crimes were not required to provide any confession, or information about crimes they had witnessed or were involved in. They were also not required to provide an apology to victims prior to receiving a full and unconditional pardon.
“This is making the job of the prosecutor at the (domestic) war crimes court impossible and has already stifled at least one case and others are also being held up because of the issue at the amnesty act,” she added.
The example of Uganda shows the problems caused when unconditional pardons are introduced during peace efforts, Inger said.
She told an earlier summit session that while the amnesty was appropriate for fighters who had been abducted and forced to join the LRA, “there’s a sense of disappointment and bitterness” in northern Uganda because of the way the amnesty has stymied justice.
“In many respects it’s a betrayal of victims … and from our perspective it’s bad law,” she said.