Government has cancelled the law granting blanket amnesty for former rebels upon renouncing rebellion. Internal Affairs Minister, Eng. Hillary Onek confirmed that he had signed the lapse of the law on May 23 but refused to discuss the details of how and why he chose to do it at this time.
Government has cancelled the law granting blanket amnesty for former rebels upon renouncing rebellion.
Internal Affairs Minister, Eng. Hillary Onek confirmed that he had signed the lapse of the law on May 23 but refused to discuss the details of how and why he chose to do it at this time.
The move comes just 10 days after the May 12th capture of Caesar Acellam, the former Chief Operations Commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Acellam, who was captured by the Ugandan forces in Central African Republic, was flown to Uganda last weekend.
Onek said on Wednesday this week that he was only asked by the Attorney General’s Chambers to sign the lapse of the law and he had to abide. He referred a URN reporter to the Attorney General for details.
But his State Minister, James Baba, was more forthcoming, explaining that legally now there exists no facility to give Amnesty to anybody who renounces rebellion. He said that from now on, anybody who wants to renounce rebellion will have to do it through the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.
On the same day that Cabinet discussed the provision of Article II of the Amnesty Act 2000, Onek signed the gazette titled The Amnesty Act (Declaration of Lapse of the Operation of Part II) Instrument 2012, thereby canceling the privilege. Part II of the new Statutory Instrument now says that it is declared that the operation of part II of the Amnesty Act, Cap 294 has lapsed.
Onek’s latest action contradicts the earlier instrument he had signed extending the Amnesty provision for a period of twelve months, effective March 25, this year.
The decision has already angered a number of Civil Society Organisations who were instrumental in negotiating for a transitional legal system that would motivate more rebels still in the bush to come back home.
One such organization, the Refugee Law Project at Makerere University, has accused the Judiciary of conniving with the Executive to short circuit the process of a peaceful negotiation of conflicts in Uganda.
Leander Komakech, the Senior Research and Advocacy Officer of the Refugee Law Project, who participated in a comprehensive research on transitional justice, said on Wednesday this week that majority of the affected persons they had interviewed were of the view that the Amnesty provision should be extended for at least two more years.
Komakech said the research was published in March this year at a dialogue organised by the Justice Law and Order Sector, UN Women and Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights on National Reconciliation and Transitional Justice in Kitgum. The study was done among communities from Kitgum, Gulu, Agago, Pader, Lira, Adjumani, Kasese, Soroti, Nakapiripirit, Arua, Bulambuli and Nakasongola. Other communities consulted on the subject included those from Hoima, Bundibugyo, Kyankwanzi, Luweero and Mubende.
Komakech said the communities thought that by leaving open the opportunity for amnesty for the rebels, a peaceful negotiation was always possible. He said the new move now kills any attempts aimed at developing a concrete transitional justice in Uganda.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Stephen Kagoda, defended his minister saying the consultations done with the stakeholders were enough to form the decision government took. Kagoda said the instrument was drafted by the Solicitor General and his minister only signed it as the sector department.
Deputy Attorney General, Fred Ruhindi told URN that under the new development, only rebels with lesser offences like those abducted would benefit from amnesty and not commanders such as Acellam and Kwoyelo. Ruhindi explained that under international law, as well as the Rome Statute, amnesty is not applicable. He said that the Ugandan situation was a locally generated arrangement which was meant to be temporary and not permanent.
Acelam is still in the hands of the UPDF in Gulu while Kwoyelo is currently in Luzira prison but challenging the decision by government to deny him amnesty. The Supreme Court is to rule on the case soon.
Since October 2011, over 200 former fighters have received amnesty, most of them former ADF fighters who surrendered to UN peace-keepers in D R Congo.
The Amnesty Commissioners have not had their contracts renewed for the last six months now.
amnesty act 2000