By Anne Mugisa
The Amnesty Act that guaranteed blanked pardon to rebels has expired. The Law enacted in 2000 as a temporary measure to allow LRA combatants who renounce war to be pardoned, lapsed on Friday May 25, 2012.
The expiry of the Act means that the rebels that come after will have to go through the country's judicial processes. The expiry also cancels chances for Ceaser Acellam, an LRA Commander who the UPDF said they captured in the jungles of the Central African Republic (CAR). Besides, he had not yet applied for Amnesty by the expiry of the Act.
The Minister of Internal Affairs, Eng. Hilary Onek said on Monday that the Ministry has used its mandate to extend only part of the Act which deals with settling and integration. The part that deals with Amnesty, according to Onek, was not extended.
Yesterday, the Amnesty Commission, whose term had expired, was waiting for extension of their mandate, according to the spokesperson, Moses Draku. Though the Commissioner's contracts are extended, the Commission will not be able to legally issue Amnesty certificates.
Onek said that the extension is for only 12 months to allow the Commission to handle the other processes that were in the Act and to wind up. "We hope that after 12 months, there will be a new comprehensive law to deal with all issues that were being done under the Amnesty Act," Onek said. "The New law is supposed to be in conformity with Uganda's laws. As it was, it contravened both the national and international laws and conventions," he added.
Since its enactment, 13,000 former LRA combatants have been pardoned to date, according to the records with the Amnesty Commission. Those eligible for pardon excluded the leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony and four of his top commanders, two of whom are said to be dead. The five were indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
With the lapse of the amnesty Commission's mandate to issue Amnesty certificates, the fate of Thomas Kwoyello, another rebel who was captured in CAR, hangs in the balance. Kwoyello's case is still with the Supreme Court. If the Court overturns the Constitutional Court ruling which ordered that he be issued the certificate, he would have to be tried over his involvement in the war crimes.
According to information from the Attorney General's office, the Kwoyello's case was further complicated by the fact that the contracts of the Amnesty Commissioners had expired even before he applied and therefore they could not sign the certificate.
Recently, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said that he would not prosecute returning rebels who were abducted, those in the low ranks and therefore they should not fear to return because of the absence of Amnesty. The DPP said he is only interested in the LRA top Commanders. Though Acellam is not one of those indicted by the ICC, he was until his capture one of the top five LRA commanders.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Attorney General's Chambers, the proposed law envisages in 12 months will offer a more comprehensive justice and accountability framework. It will limit Amnesty to some cases excluding serious crimes and will allow accountability to victims as well as allow community reconciliation, they said.