The armed conflict in northern Uganda, between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and the Ugandan government, is one of Africa’s longest running armed conflicts not of an international character. It has lasted for nearly two decades. In the course of the conflict, serious war crimes of concern to the international community as a whole – particularly intentionally directing attacks (regular use of torture, mutilation, murder and abduction) by the LRA against the civilian population not taking direct part in hostilities – have been committed with complete impunity. This has led to a gross and consistent pattern of human rights violations. Through amnesty, the Ugandan government has, since 2000, expressed readiness to forgive the LRA rebels and their leader, Joseph Kony, of war crimes, if they denounced the rebellion. Yet, the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague has, since 2004, at the request of the Ugandan government, been investigating war crimes committed in the nineteen-year-old conflict between the LRA and the government and recently expressed readiness to issue arrest warrants for the LRA leader Joseph Kony and several of the top brass of the LRA.
It has been argued that the ICC’s effort to attain justice through prosecution while peace still eludes the region risks, in the end, achieving neither justice nor peace. This article considers the question whether the domestic amnesty law is counterproductive to the ICC’s work. While acknowledging the need for forgiveness and reintegration, it is argued that those who ‘bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes committed’ should be brought to justice. However, it is acknowledged that since almost 80 per cent of the LRA’s soldiers are children who have been abducted from their families and forced to commit horrendous crimes against their own people, the ICC faces the difficulty of categorising members of the LRA as victims (those who deserve amnesty) or perpetrators (those who should be prosecuted). The ICC needs to be successful in Uganda – one of its first operations – in order to demonstrate to the international community that it is an effective instrument.
Journal Article. 14072 words.
Subjects: Military and Defence Law ; Public International Law ; Police and Security Services ; Terrorism and National Security Law ; Use of Force, War, Peace and Neutrality
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