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Dialogue: The Crossroads of Amnesty and Justice

On Friday, November 11, 2011, Hon. F. Ruhindi, Minister of State for Justice and Constitutional Affairs and Deputy Attorney General delivered the keynote address at a conference held to discuss the role of amnesties on achieving justice and accountability for serious human rights violations. Hon. Ruhindi’s remarks highlighted the country’s dual goal of achieving peace and justice after the war in Northern Uganda. The Hon. Minister referred to Uganda’s national and international obligations to pursue justice and accountability for war related crimes within Uganda’s transitional justice process, suggesting a review of the current mechanisms would be relevant, and expressed support for the dialogue.

The conference focused on the Amnesty Act, adopted in 2000, by providing a history and background to the adoption of the Act; overview of the Amnesty Act and discussion of key provisions; the impact of the Amnesty Act on peace and justice after the war; the effect of the Amnesty Act on gender based crimes committed during the conflict; and international perspectives on amnesties and international law principles and standards. The conference concluded with a discussion on the future of the Amnesty Act; specifically, the participants were asked to express views on whether the instrument required amendments, repeal or should be preserved as is.

The ‘way forward’ discussion led to a number of proposals for amendment to the Act to allow for greater accountability of individuals responsible for atrocities. Generally, participants agreed that the Amnesty Act was insufficient to achieve sustainable peace and meaningful justice for victims after the war. There was overwhelming support for the adoption of additional mechanisms alongside the Amnesty Act, such as a national truth commission and delivery of reparations for victims, in the form of social services and infrastructure.

To close the conference, Ms. Josephine Onya of the Ministry of Internal Affairs represented the Hon. Minister H.Onek, indicating that a revision of the Act would be timely in light of the current context in the region and the country’s move towards justice and accountability for war related crimes.

The conference was organized by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda (OHCHR), UN Women, and the Refugee Law Project. In attendance were members of the Government of Ugannda, the Justice, Law and Order Sector, international community, academics, civil society organizations and members of war-affected communities, including victims of the conflict in Northern Uganda.


By Edgar Kuhimbisa | Published: November 21, 2011