Political agreement to try the perpetrators of the most serious crimes in Uganda
|Publisher||International Federation for Human Rights|
|Publication Date||25 February 2008|
|Cite as||International Federation for Human Rights, Political agreement to try the perpetrators of the most serious crimes in Uganda, 25 February 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/482c5bd723.html [accessed 10 July 2014]|
Uganda must honour its international obligations regarding the International Criminal Court (ICC)
On 19 February 2008, the Government of the Republic of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) adopted an appendix ("Agreement") to the Agreement on Accountability and Reconciliation ("Principal Agreement") signed on 29 June 2007, that sets out the modalities of implementation of the Principal Agreement as regards truth, justice and reparation for the crimes committed during the 20-year-conflict in northern Uganda.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisation in Uganda, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), regard with great concern the lack of clarity regarding the implementation of this agreement, and in particular how the national criminal system, the traditional and the international justice mechanisms will be articulated, so as to respect the international obligations of Uganda.
"The Agreement to try the perpetrators of the most serious crimes is a big step, provided that Uganda can demonstrate that it has the capacity to deal effectively and decisively with the perpetrators of heinous crimes and bring them to book, so that justice is done and seen to be done", said Livingstone Sewanyana, President of FHRI.
FIDH and FHRI promote national trials to put effectively an end to impunity for the most horrific crimes, when national authorities have the will and capacity to undertake such trials. However, the International Criminal Court has found that this is not the case in Uganda and, therefore, has opened an investigation over the crimes committed in Northern Uganda since July 2004 and has issued 5 arrests warrants against the 5 leaders of the LRA, in 2005. Uganda is thus currently under the absolute obligation to cooperate with the ICC, and in particular, to hand over the LRA leaders for whom arrest warrant have been outstanding for over two and a half years.
"Read against this background and in connection with the peace negotiations that have been on-going for over a year between the Ugandan Government and the LRA, the Agreement's lack of accuracy makes us fear that the government is seeking to evade the ICC", said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.
The Agreement provides for a special division of Uganda's High Court to prosecute individuals who are alleged to have committed serious crimes during the conflict in northern Uganda (§7-9 of the Agreement). The government of Uganda commits itself to establish a unit to carry out investigations and prosecutions (§10-14). The Agreement also encompasses the establishment of a body responsible for inquiring the past and truth around the conflict (§4-6), as well as traditional justice mechanisms, including Mato Oput and communal dispute settlement institutions, seen as "central part of the alternative justice and reconciliation framework" (§19-22). Specific provisions also call for special arrangements to facilitate protection and participation of witnesses, victims, women and children, as well as for making reparations to victims of the conflict.
FIDH and FHRI strongly remind that these provisions must be implemented in an effective and meaningful manner, in conformity with international law standards on fair trials, proportional penalty, respect of the rights of all victims. The ICC Pre-trial Chamber II is the only authority to decide whether Ugandan courts are now able and willing to genuinely investigate and prosecute any perpetrator of the crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC.