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Thursday, 04 February 2021 15:26

ICC Delivers Verdict on Dominic Ogwen

 

The Hague -- Today, 4 February 2021, Trial Chamber IX of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or "Court") found Dominic Ongwen guilty for a total of 61 comprising crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed in Northern Uganda between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005. The verdict may be appealed by either party to the proceedings within 30 days after the notification of the Judgment.

ICC Trial Chamber IX, composed of Judge Bertram Schmitt, Presiding Judge, Judge Péter Kovács and Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan, analysed the evidence submitted and discussed before it at trial and found, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Mr Ongwen is guilty of the following crimes…

 

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Published: February 4, 2021

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Welcome to this edition of the JLOS Bulletin – the special edition on Uganda’s Transitional Justice process. In 2019, Cabinet considered and approved the National Transitional Justice Policy (NTJP). This was a landmark achievement and a major milestone as it made Uganda the first African Union Member State to enact such a policy. The Policy is an overarching framework by the Government of Uganda (GoU), designed to address the justice, accountability and reconciliation needs of post-conflict Uganda. The Policy proposes the use of a combination of formal and informal (alternative) justice mechanisms. 

The Transitional Justice (TJ) programme was first institutionalized at JLOS in 2008 when Cabinet directed the implementation of the Agreements resulting from peace negotiations between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Juba, South Sudan. These peace negotiations gave the momentum for the development of a legal framework for the Government of Uganda to implement Transitional Justice.

Over the years, the JLOS Transitional Justice programme has successfully evolved from the development of a legal framework to the implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing access to justice through Transitional Justice mechanisms. Sector institutions are being supported to implement specific Transitional Justice interventions that cut across legislative development, law reform, prosecution-led investigations, adjudication and rehabilitation of combatants. The programme also takes into account the unanimity of common values, principles and standards of the Sector; such as accountability, transparency, victim participation, vulnerability, gender equality and the best interests of the child, among others.

The development and approval of the NTJP is therefore an affirmation of the Government’s commitment to peace, justice and reconciliation. It reflects the Government’s core objectives aimed at ending impunity and promoting justice and reconciliation as necessary precursors to sustainable development. 

In this special edition of the JLOS Bulletin, we explore Uganda’s Transitional Justice experience and showcase the various achievements, milestones, challenges and opportunities of our Transitional Justice programme.

We commend this magazine and encourage you to give us your feedback and thoughts on Uganda’s transitional justice process – especially in regard to the enactment of a national Transitional Justice policy. 

 

Edgar Kuhimbisa & Margaret Ajok

Editorial Team

 

Published: December 31, 2020

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DOWNLOAD: Uganda National Transitional Justice Policy (2019)

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The National Transitional Justice Policy is an overreaching framework of the Government of Uganda (GoU); designed to address justice, accountability and reconciliation needs of post-conflict Uganda.  The Policy, provides a holistic intervention to achieving lasting peace in a country whose history has until recently, been marred by political and constitutional instability.  A combination of justice mechanisms is proposed in the Policy. 

It, therefore, marks a major milestone in the history of the administration of justice in Uganda as well as Africa, Uganda being the first country to adopt a Transitional Justice Policy, after the African Union’s (AU) adoption of an AU Transitional Justice Policy

The Constitutive Act of the African Union 2000, recognizes the fact that the scourge of conflicts in Africa constitutes a major impediment to the socio-economic development of the continent and the need to promote peace, security and stability. 

Transitional Justice is a range of processes and mechanisms associated with society’s attempt to come to terms with a legacy of large – scale past abuses and human rights violations in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation. 

Transitional Justice consists of both judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms including prosecution initiatives, truth-seeking, reparations programmes, institutional reform or an appropriate combination thereof. 

The development of a National Policy on Transitional Justice is an affirmation of the Government of Uganda’s commitment to national reconciliation, peace and justice. It reflects the Government of Uganda’s core objectives of ending impunity and promoting justice and reconciliation as a necessary precursor to sustainable development. It recognizes that Ugandans aspire to live peacefully with citizens of other countries and in harmony within their social, cultural and ethnic diversity. 

The Government has over the years reiterated the need for peace, stability and social cohesion as important prerequisites for the development of the country.  

The Transitional Justice Policy implementation will, therefore, set a base for economic development and inclusion of all Ugandans in national development.

This policy will serve as an overarching framework that will address justice, accountability and reconciliation needs of post-conflict situations.  It will create a holistic intervention in achieving lasting peace and stability.

 

DOWNLOAD NATIONAL TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE POLICY (pdf)

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By Margaret Ajok |  Published: July 3 2019

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KAMPALA - Government has approved the National Transitional Justice Policy whose objective is to address the gaps in the formal justice system for post conflict situations.The TJ policy is also aimed at formalizing the use of the traditional justice mechanism in post conflict situations and to also addressing gaps in the current amnesty process.

While announcing this development, Mr. Ofwono Opondo the executive director of Uganda Media Centre, told reporters that the transitional policy looks to facilitate reparation processes and programmes, reconciliation as well as nation building.

 

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NOTE: This is a developing story. Indepth analysis and information to be published in due course.

 

Published: June 18, 2019

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

From 4-5 July, Africa Legal Aid (AFLA) in cooperation with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, will convene a meeting on 'Emerging Trends on Complementarity: Consultation with Stakeholders from Central and Eastern Africa'. The meeting will build on AFLA’s initiatives on Complementarity, making the case that justice done at home, or close to home, offers better assurance of efficiency and legitimacy.

Participants will attend from Central and Eastern African countries, including Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda. Participants include members of the judiciary, prosecutors, officials of justice ministries and attorney's general departments, civil societies and legal fraternities, intergovernmental organizations and diplomatic spheres.

Notable participants include Honourable William Byaruhanga, Attorney General of Uganda; H.E. Judge Kimberly Prost of the International Criminal Court; Honourable Martin Ngoga, Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly; and Tolmo Alain, Special Prosecutor of the Special Criminal Court for the Central African Republic.

The themes of the meeting include: Creating Political Will in the Pursuit of International Justice; The Victim in Focus; The Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic and the Proposed Hybrid Court for South Sudan; and Building Legislative, Investigative, Prosecutorial, and Judicial Capacity in Uganda. The meeting will conclude with a Panel discussion on the Bemba Acquittal, and what it means for International Criminal Justice.

For more information, please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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This statement made by the Registry, ICD is to notify and update the public and concerned stakeholders of the activities of the ICD surrounding the trial of Uganda versus Thomas Kwoyelo.

 

1.  The ICD has had an overwhelming response from the International community following the last statement. The ICD will look to continue its current momentum in order to bring justice to those who have not yet received it.

2.  The Registry, ICD Outreach team traveled to Gulu on the 28/07/15 with the aim of establishing a dialogue with invested parties in the community.

3. The Outreach team met with the outgoing judge in Gulu Hon. Lady Justice Margaret Mutonyi who has been serving at Gulu High Court for the last 3years.

 

4. The outreach team discussed the problems that Gulu and Northern Uganda currently face as a result of the conflict with Judge Mutonyi. Judge Mutonyi stressed the need to address the high rate of juvenile crime in Gulu. Most of the current perpetrators of juvenile crime in Gulu are children who are direct or indirect victims of the LRA war.

 

5. The Registry, ICD has established an information desk in Gulu specifically for the Kwoyelo trial. The desk is the point of contact for the ICD in Gulu. The aim of this desk is to provide accurate and timely information to the Gulu community and trial participants.

 

6. Anyone who wishes to access the services of the ICD Gulu desk should proceed to the library in the High Court of Gulu or contact the desk via: email - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by Telephone on : +256753620520

 

7. The outreach team made contact with the Refugee Law Project in Gulu who is working closely with the victims.

 

8. The ICD will be working closely with the Refugee Law Project throughout the Kwoyelo trial in order to provide the required support to victims.

 

9. The ICD recognizes the commendable work that the Refugee Law Project is doing in Northern Uganda.

 

10. The outreach team also travelled to Kitgum to gain an appreciation of the social landscape and the needs of the local community who were among those who suffered most from the conflict.

 

11. The Refugee Law Project has set up the National Memory and Peace Documentation Center in Kitgum which documents the timeline and events of the conflict in Northern Uganda. The ICD appreciates this effort, as remembrance and recognition is a crucial part of reconciliation.

 

12. The ICD Outreach team will travel to Gulu again in preparation for the pre-trial which is scheduled for the 15/08/16.

 

Any organisation interested in working with the High Court of Gulu and the ICD in the area of juvenile crime in Gulu should contact the registrar, ICD.

 

Issued on: August 2, 2016

 

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This statement made by the International War Crimes Division (ICD) Registry is to notify the public and concerned stakeholders of the activities of the ICD surrounding the trial of Uganda versus Thomas Kwoyelo.

 

1.      The Supreme Court of Uganda ruled on the 08/05/2015 that the trial of Thomas Kwoyelo was constitutional and should continue. The Supreme Court concluded that the Amnesty Act does not grant blanket amnesty to all crimes committed during the rebellion, but only grants amnesty to crimes of a war-like nature (attached is the supreme court judgment).

 

2.      The ICD expects the pre-trial of Uganda versus Thomas Kwoyelo to take place on the 15/08/2016 in Gulu and the trial to take place during October of 2016.

 

3.      Since the decision to continue the trial, the ICD Registry has been conducting outreach programs throughout the Gulu region. The ICD Registry in partnership with the Ugandan Law society and Refugee Law Project is focusing their efforts on engaging with the victims and witnesses (V/W) in order to explain why the trial should take place and what the V/Ws should expect from the process.

 

4.      The ICD rules of procedure and evidence provide for the Ugandan government to offer reparation or compensation to qualifying V/Ws should the trial produce a conviction.

 

 

 

5.      The ICD has therefore appointed Counsel for Victims who have been calling for V/Ws to come forward and participate in the trial so as to be included on the victim index which index will be referred to during the reparation exercise.

 

 

6.      The ICD is currently moving to implement a V/W desk at the court in Gulu in order to centralize information for those concerned and to provide a point of contact for V/Ws.

 

 

7.      The ICD is investigating the possible use of local radio stations to broadcast important information surrounding the trial to the communities. It is the hope of the ICD that this measure will reduce confusion and demonstrate to the community that the trial is proceeding.

 

 

8.      The ICD has heard from a number of V/Ws that they have evidence of UPDF soldiers committing atrocities during the conflict. As a result, the ICD has made it clear that if credible evidence was brought against UPDF soldiers or commanders the case would be referred to the UPDF who have proven that they will court martial those who have committed crimes.

 

 

9.      The ICD is working alongside invested NGOs in the Gulu region to provide the best service to those who have been affected. The ICD invites interested NGOs to submit requests for further information.

 

 

 

10.  The ICD invites invested NGOs to explore the possibility of establishing themselves or returning to the Gulu region.

 

 

11.  The ICD wishes to work alongside NGOs in order to provide the highest level of care and support to those who have been affected by these alleged crimes and to assist with the reconciliation process that this trial is likely to bring about.

 

 

 

Registrar, International Crimes Division

 

July 26, 2016

 

 

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In 2006, The Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army commenced peace talks to end the conflict in Northern Uganda. In June 2007, the GoU and the LRA signed an, annexure to the final peace Agreement on Accountability and Reconciliation, which required the Government to establish both formal and non-formal justice mechanisms to address accountability and reparations for atrocities committed in Northern Uganda.

In line with the Juba Peace Agreement calling for the establishment of accountability mechanisms for crimes perpetrated during the conflict, the Government of Uganda established the War Crimes Division in 2008, now the International Crimes Division of the High Court, to try individuals suspected of committing war crimes in the country.

 

What is the International Crimes Division?

The ICD is a special division of the High Court, a national Court established in 2008, under the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.  Originally, it was called the War Crimes Division. The International Crimes Division is not an international court. The ICD is not the International Criminal Court (ICC), or a branch of the International Criminal Court.

 

Where is the International Crimes Division located?

The headquarters is in Kampala, at Plot 8 Mabua Road, Kololo. The court may also sit in any other place in Uganda as the Chief Justice and the Principal Judge may decide.  

 

What kind of crimes will the International Crimes Division handle?  

The International Crimes Division deals jurisdiction over serious international crimes  as prescribed in  the Practice Directions of the ICD (Legal Notice No. 10 of 2011, gazetted 31 May 2011) these include; any offence relating to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, terrorism, human trafficking, piracy, and any other crimes as prescribed by Law.

What laws can be applied by the International Crimes Division? 

The ICD shall apply the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, the Geneva Conventions Act of 1964, the Penal Code Act Cap 120, and the International Criminal Court Act of 2010, governing international crimes, and any other relevant law. 

 

How many judges are there in the International Crimes Division? 

There are five Judges appointed to the ICD. They sit in a panel of three Judges at the war crimes proceedings. There is a Head of the Division and Deputy Head of Division. 

 

Which institution is responsible for bringing charges before the International Crimes Division? 

The Director of Public Prosecutions, on behalf of the people of Uganda, according to the Constitution of Uganda (Art. 120(3), of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda)

 The functions of the Director of Public Prosecutions are the following—

(a) to direct the police to investigate any information of a criminal nature and to report to him or her expeditiously;

(b) to institute criminal proceedings against any person or authority in any court with competent jurisdiction other than a court martial;

(c) to take over and continue any criminal proceedings instituted by any other person or authority;

(d) to discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered, any criminal proceedings to which this article relates, instituted by himself or herself or any other person or authority; except that the Director of Public Prosecutions shall not discontinue any proceedings commenced by another person or authority except with the consent of the court.

 

What is the lifespan of the International Crimes Division?  

It is a permanent division of the High Court of Uganda.

 

Is the International Crimes Division the same as the International Criminal Court (ICC)?

No. The International Crimes Division is a Division of the High Court of Uganda. The ICC is an International Court, based in The Hague, The Netherlands. The two courts complement each other. 

 

What is the International Criminal Court? 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an international court that handles cases dealing with serious international crimes, specifically the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC was established by the Rome Statute in 2002. Uganda ratified and domesticated the Rome Statute in June 2010 by enacting the International Criminal Court Act 2010, meaning that it is obliged to respect the obligations in this treaty. Specifically, Uganda has the duty to prosecute the listed crimes where they are committed in its territory. If Uganda is unable or unwilling to do so, the International Criminal Court may bring charges against offenders of such crimes, especially when the offenses were committed in Uganda after 2002.

For more information about the International Criminal Court, see www.icc-cpi.int

 

What is the maximum punishment for a war crimes case?

The maximum penalty under the Geneva Conventions Act is life imprisonment for grave breaches of wilful killing. 

 

What are grave breaches under the Geneva Conventions Act? 

‘Grave breaches’ of the Geneva Conventions are serious crimes committed in the context of an armed conflict. ‘Grave breaches’ of the Geneva Conventions is a term used to denote the seriousness of the offenses. The Geneva conventions defines grave breaches as crimes: “involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.  ‘Grave breaches’ constitute war crimes, which are also prohibited under the Rome Statute of the ICC.

 

What is the role of the International Crimes Division?  

The role of the International Crimes Division is to hear the evidence presented by the Prosecution and any case presented by the Defence to raise serious doubt about the Prosecution case, and then to decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty. 

 

What is the role of the registry of the International Crimes Division?

The registry provides administrative support to the International Crimes Division and coordinates all aspects of the trial. The Registrar heads the registry.

 

What is the role of Prosecutors?

Prosecutors guide the police in investigating a crime. If Prosecutors think there is sufficient evidence to prove that someone committed a crime, they institute a criminal case in a court. At trial, Prosecutors try to convince Judges that the accused committed the crimes. Prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  

 

What is the role of the CID(Criminal Investigations Department)

The CID investigates the cases, summon witnesses at the hearing stage, produce exhibits in Court, and Testify as investigators in the case. 

 

What is the role of the Defence?

The Defence speaks on behalf of the accused. They also try to convince the Judges that the accused did not commit the crimes and help ensure that the rights of the accused are protected.

 

What is the role of the Prisons Service?

The prisons service detains the accused in legally recognised places of detention, in good conditions and in accordance with accepted standards. The prisons produce the accused before courts as and when required. On acquittal, the prisons release the accused and on conviction, the prisons undertake to rehabilitate the accused. 

 

Will the prosecution and defence witnesses be protected? 

Yes. Measures are in place to ensure the safety of witnesses.

 

What kind of protection measures can be provided to witnesses? 

Protection measures that exist include; physical protection, internal relocation, external relocation, change of witness contacts. Other include protection of the witness’ identity, including withholding names from the press, shielding witnesses’ faces during testimony, and presenting sensitive testimony in closed court sessions. These measures can apply before, during, and after the trial. 

 

What remedies are available to victims at the end of a trial? 

Upon conviction of an accused, courts may order the accused to pay compensation or provide other remedies to victims. According to Article 50 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Any person, who claims that a fundamental or other right or freedom guaranteed under this Constitution has been infringed or threatened, is entitled to apply to a competent court for redress which may include compensation.

 

What kinds of evidence can be used by the Prosecution and Defence in criminal trials?

Evidence can include:

  • Testimony of witnesses in court
  • Written documents
  • Video recordings
  • Scientific reports and forensic evidence
  • Post mortem reports
  • Photographs
  • Clinical notes 

 

Who can be a witness in criminal trials?

Any Person who has information relevant to the trial. 

 

How can victims participate in criminal trials?

Current practice in Uganda is that victims can participate as witnesses if called by the Prosecution or defense to help the court decide whether the accused is guilty or not. Victims can also attend the hearings as members of the public. 

 

Can decisions of the International Crimes Division be appealed? 

Yes, to the Court of Appeal. 

 

How long do war-crimes trials last?  

Depending on how complex the case is and how many witnesses will testify, war crimes trials can take many months to conclude. There is no time limit; however, trials must be conducted without undue delay. 

 

Where can I get more information about the Kwoyelo case and the International Crimes Division?

One can get information from the JLOS website at www.jlos.go.ug or the Judiciary Website at www.judicature.go.ug  

 

What is the contact information of the International Crimes Division?

Please contact the ICD at www.judicature.go.ug

 

What role do NGOs, cultural leaders and other civil-society groups play in war-crimes cases at the International Crimes Division?  

They can play different roles. Examples include the dissemination of information about  the case, appearing as witnesses if called by one of the parties or the court, and Supporting victims and witnesses. They are also partners and stakeholders in the  administration of Justice. 

 

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ICD Frequently Asked Questions

ICD Brochure

Frequently Asked Questions on the Thomas Kwoyelo Trial

 

Published in Transitional Justice
Tuesday, 02 February 2016 13:28

Transitional Justice Working Group Membership

H W Tadeo Asiimwe - Judiciary

H W Margaret Tibulya - Judiciary (Alternate)

Ms. Melody Ginamia - Uganda Human Rights Commission

Ms. Freda Nalumansi - Uganda Human Rights Commission

Ms Florence Ochago - Law Reform Commission

Ms Jane Adongo - Law Reform Commission

Mr. Steven Mubiru - Law Development Centre

Mr. Aaron Besigye - Uganda Law Society

Published in Transitional Justice
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