Saturday, December 15, 2012

By Moses Sserwanga UNDERSTANDING TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE TO REDRESS LRA'S WAR CRIMES AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN NORTHERN UGANDA Transitional Justice has emerged as one of the key thematic (read theme/subject)areas for the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) to promote justice and accountability for past human rights violations and war crimes for victims in Uganda’s conflict-affected areas. Our country has witnessed turbulence predating independence, and has since then been grappling with finding lasting solutions to issues of human rights violations , destruction property in war affected areas. Lives were lost, persons disappeared, human rights were abused and violated, children were abducted and people maimed. The future of many children whose life opportunities have been lost remains uncertain; it is only noble to say that the scars of our past vividly haunt us. In order to redress these injustices, the Justice Law and Order Sector, (JLOS) has put in place a Transitional Justice process and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempt to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation. According to the Transitional Justice technical Advisor at the JLOS Secretariat , Ms. Margaret Ajok, Transitional Justice consists of both judicial and non –judicial processes and mechanisms which include prosecution initiatives, truth seeking and reparation programs. “ Through this system we want to promote justice and accountability for past human rights violations and war crimes. We are going to enhance access to justice and provide basic services for victims in Uganda’s conflict affected areas with emphasis on the rights of vulnerable groups (women and Children),” she says. Ajok explained that the Transitional justice agenda in Uganda was brought on board with the signing of the 2007 Juba Agreement on accountability and reconciliation. “The spirit of the agreement is the need to adopt appropriate justice mechanisms to resolve the two-decade war in Northern Uganda and to promote accountability and reconciliation. The agreement requires that the Government of Uganda adopt appropriate policy framework for the implementation of the terms of the agreement, introduce amendments to the amnesty the law to conform with the agreement and undertake legal proceedings nationally or internationally, “ she stated. In 2008, a Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) was established to critically think through the practical issues that have to be addressed before transitional justice mechanisms on accountability and reconciliation are institutionalised. The working group consists of individuals from core JLOS institutions selected based on their comparative role in implementing the commitment in the Juba peace agreement in accountability and reconciliation. The working group is divided into the formal criminal jurisdiction, traditional justice, traditional justice truth telling and integrated systems sub - committees in order to expedite the work of the working group to tackle different thematic areas with representatives nominated from the various institutions. These institutions include the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs (MoJCA), the Judiciary, The Uganda Law Reform Commission (ULRC), the Uganda Police Force, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the Ministry In 2009, the formal justice sub committees undertook consultations on the use of formal criminal prosecutions in addressing impunity with specific regard to the then proposed International Criminal Court (ICC) Bill. The outcome of the study led to proposals for amendment of the Bill which is now law - the International Criminal Court Act, 2010[1]. The Act serves as the legal framework for bringing perpetrators of war atrocities to account for their actions. In 2010, the 15th Annual Government of Uganda – Development Partner Review meeting was held whereby transitional justice featured as an important commitment of the Sector. JLOS has since adopted transitional justice as an important process to deliver justice for conflict affected regions and communities in Uganda through the sector wide approach. Transitional justice is also being incorporated into JLOS strategic investment plan III. In 2011, the sector undertook national consultations on the use of traditional justice and truth telling mechanisms in the promotion of accountability and reconciliation. Findings from the consultations will lead to the development of policy proposals on alternative justice mechanisms, including truth-seeking, traditional justice and reparations. National Transitional Justice Policy: The National Transitional Justice Policy will be developed in accordance with the Juba Agreement on Accountability and Reconciliation (2007). Equally, the views and aspirations of the people who were affected by the conflict are being taken into consideration. The agreement emphasizes victims’ rights and participation with special attention to the situation of women and children who were affected by conflict and promotion of a holistic approach to justice. “The policy will therefore address issues of justice and reconciliation through a number of methods ,including: traditional justice mechanisms, reparations, and social reintegration of conflict affected communities , including amnesty reporters and victims of serious violations. The writer is a human rights lawyer, trainer,development communication/media consultant and advocate of High Court of Uganda

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