No more amnesty certificates for rebels

The Ugandan government pulled the plug on controversial legislation granting amnesty to armed groups.

LRA members are no longer entitled to automatic amnesty.

KAMPALA - Contrary to widespread expectations and public pronouncements, the Ugandan government has pulled the plug on controversial legislation which since 2000 has granted blanket amnesty to more than 26,000 members of armed groups, most notably the notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The Act was passed as part of efforts to end hostilities in northern Uganda and bring the LRA to the negotiating table. Over the following six years, several detailed accords were drawn up but LRA leader Joseph Kony repeatedly refused to sign a comprehensive peace agreement.

"There will be no blanket amnesty for anyone now," said Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek, who on 23 May used his prerogative to allow significant sections of the Amnesty Act to lapse.

"The rebels have to go through the courts and legal process. The courts will evaluate each individual case and decide whether to prosecute or grant amnesty," he told IRIN.

Onek explained that the move followed a judicial review of the act, which found it to be in contravention of both domestic and international law. New legislation on justice and accountability will be drafted over the coming year, he said.

Sections of the Act relating to the reintegration and resettlement of those granted amnesty over the past 12 years remain in force, while the mandate of the Amnesty Commission has been extended for a year to facilitate these activities. But it will no longer have the power to issue amnesty certificates to rebels who surrender and renounce their armed struggle.

Members of some 29 armed groups have benefited from amnesty to date, about half of them from the LRA, which is now thought to have just a few hundred fighters active in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.