Uganda appeals court grants ex-LRA rebel amnesty

[JURIST] The Uganda Constitutional Court [official website] ruled [materials] Thursday that former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [JURIST news archive] rebel Thomas Kwoyelo is entitled to amnesty under the country's Amnesty Act of 2000 [text]. Kwoyelo was charged [JURIST report] in July by the International Crimes Division (ICD) [official website] of the High Court of Uganda on 53 counts of willful killing, hostage taking, destruction of property and causing injury that took place during the country's civil war [BBC backgrounder]. The Constitutional Court stated that because Kwoyelo had renounced rebel activities [All Africa report] he was entitled to amnesty, like everyone else who renounced the activities and were granted amnesty under the act. The court indicated that they were not interfering with the independence of the Amnesty Commission and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions because they still have the ability to prosecute those who refuse to renounce rebellion. They also emphasized that the act did not immunize all wrongdoers from prosecution. The prosecution in the case had argued that the Amnesty Act should be declared unconstitutional [RNW report] in order to end impunity for those who perpetrated violence during the civil war. Lawyers for Kwoyelo stated that the court's ruling was about fairness and equal treatment under the act. Kwoyelo, who was taken into custody [HRW backgrounder] in March 2009, joined the LRA in 1987 and allegedly participated in war crimes from 1992 through 2005 during his tenure as "colonel" of the rebel group. Kwoyelo has denied committing the crimes.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] said in May 2008 that it was investigating possible new war crimes [JURIST report] committed by the LRA in recent attacks on Ugandan villages. In March 2008, the ICC said that arrest warrants issued by the ICC for LRA leaders [JURIST report] remain in effect, despite requests from Uganda that they be withdrawn. The four ICC-issued warrants were executed in 2005 and include LRA leader Joseph Kony and LRA senior member Vincent Otti [BBC profiles]. In 2007, Otti was executed by rebels [BBC report], though official confirmation of his death was delayed until January amid fears that it would disrupt peace talks. Kony, who remains in hiding, is wanted for orchestrating the killing of thousands of civilians and the enslavement of thousands more children over two decades of conflict. The government has said that Kony is willing to face trial at home [JURIST report] but not at the ICC. Uganda established the ICD [JURIST report] in February 2008 to try the suspected war crimes perpetrators. A fifth arrest warrant was initially issued for Raska Lukwiya but was later withdrawn after a July 2007 ICC pre-trial chamber decision.

 

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