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JLOS Reparations Policy and Programming Workshop

On July 25-27, 2012, the Justice Law and Order Sector and the Uganda Human Rights Commission held a successful workshop on Reparations Policy and Programming.

The purpose of the workshop was to support members of the JLOS Transitional Justice Working Group in its task to develop the reparations component of the National Transitional Justice Policy which is expected to address both formal and alternative justice mechanisms for conflict related crimes. In particular, the workshop was meant to build on the latest findings and recommendations of the JLOS National Report on Traditional Justice, Truth-telling and Reconciliation, which highlights the need for a reparations policy and program for Uganda.

Further, the workshop is a follow-up activity stemming from the February 2012 Reparations conference hosted by Uganda Human Rights Commission, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNWomen where their respective reports on reparations were launched. For more details on the workshop, see concept note at: Link to concept note.

A cross-section of stakeholders were represented at the workshop, namely policymakers and technical persons, experts in transitional justice and practitioners working in war-affected communities. Participants included representatives of JLOS’ Transitional Justice Working Group, Members of Parliament, the Office of the Prime Minister, representatives of civil society, and victims’ associations. For more details on the program, see: Link to program.

Specific objectives of the workshop included:


• Sensitize the members of the Transitional Justice Working Group on international law standards and best practices in the area of reparations policymaking and programming to address mass violations and conflict-related crimes.
• Contribute directly to developing the reparations component of the JLOS National Transitional Justice policy that is in line with international standards, responsive to victims’ harm in Northern Uganda and gender sensitive.
Hon. Justice Owiny-Dolo of the International Crimes Division of the High Court of Uganda opened the workshop, indicating that the workshop was one of a series of consultative meetings in the larger process of developing a comprehensive, victim-centered policy on Transitional Justice. Commissioner Maguru of the Uganda Human Rights Commission delivered the keynote address, which related the nature, rights and obligations surrounding reparations in a transitional justice setting, and in Uganda in particular.

Hon. Jovah Kamateeka, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, Member of Parliament of Uganda chaired the session on Uganda’s Experience, relating findings from the field by the JLOS Study on Traditional Justice, Truth-telling and Reconciliation and Uganda Human Rights Commission-UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on “The Dust Has Not Yet Settled” relating victims’ views on reparations. Hon. Kamateeka congratulated JLOS for this initiative and confirmed her commitment and interest to support the development of a reparations policy and program for Uganda.

Hon. Betty Bigombe, State Minister for Water Resources, delivered a speech at the Welcome Dinner on July 25, 2012. The Hon. Minister related the important link between reparations and accountability and reconciliation for war crimes perpetrated during the conflict in the North. She informed participants that much care was required when elaborating a policy or program of such nature so as to ensure that it is relevant, adequate and responsive to the needs, conditions and rights of victims. Hon. Bigombe concluded by pledging her support for the adoption of a Transitional Justice policy for Uganda.

Hon. Justice Gidudu, Chair of the Transitional Justice Working Group of JLOS closed the workshop, reiterating the importance of such consultative meetings with key stakeholders to inform the process.

The workshop generated a number of findings, many of which build on the findings and recommendations of the JLOS study on Traditional Justice, Truth-telling and Reconciliation. The key facilitator, Dr. Jeremy Sarkin, a leading expert in transitional justice, helped to guide discussions which resulted in targeted findings relating to the nature of reparations that could be delivered in the context of Uganda and the implementation factor. The working group discussions led to a number of conclusions, including:

• A reparations policy and program is critical to achieving accountability and reconciliation in Uganda for war crimes perpetrated during the conflict;
• Reparations is intimately linked to truth-seeking, and victims highly value the right to truth and reparations as a form of accountability for harm suffered;
• A truth-seeking process leading to a reparations program would be the best sequencing of mechanisms in the context of Uganda;
• Importance of adopting urgent and interim measures to provide victim assistance to the most vulnerable victims while a reparations policy or program is being developed;
• A number of violations and categories of victims were identified as requiring reparations for mass crimes;
• Both individual and collective forms of reparations may be necessary to cater for the various categories of victims and harms suffered;
• Participants identified a number of forms of reparations that would be necessary, including building memorials for war affected communities, compensation for individual victims, providing specialized social services for victims with special medical/psychosocial support needs, engaging in a truth-seeking process by setting up a national truth-seeking body, and others.
• Special categories of victims were identified and found to require special attention, they include: women victims of SGBV, abducted children and child orphans, widows, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, persons living with disabilities.
• All key stakeholders, especially the GoU, civil society and victims’ associations have a role to play in the design, roll out and implementation of a reparations program. In particular, victims can play an active role in defining what type of reparations are necessary for each community and can be active in aspects of implementation of a program.
• A Trust Fund for Victims could be set up as an implementing body, as called for in the Juba Agreements, otherwise, an existing national mechanism (UHRC) could be given a new mandate to take forward the question of reparations for victims of war crimes.
• On the short-term, urgent action is recommended, in particular emergency assistance measures for the most vulnerable victims, namely the provision of medical services and psychosocial support for injured and traumatized victims.

The workshop report will contain a comprehensive list of the findings, which will be considered as an additional contribution to the TJWG policy development process and in particular are intended to inform the reparations component of the policy and an eventual program adopted by the Government of Uganda.

JLOS and UHRC wish to recognize and thank the sponsors of the workshop, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Women, for their commitment to supporting the process of developing a comprehensive policy on Transitional Justice for Uganda.

 

By Edgar Kuhimbisa | Published: July 28 2012