Practice Relating to Rule 159. Amnesty
Uganda’s Amnesty Act (2000) provides:
(1) An Amnesty is declared in respect of any Ugandan who has at any time since the 26th day of January, 1986 engaged in or is engaging in war or armed rebellion against the government of the Republic of Uganda by –
(a) actual participation in combat;
(b) collaborating with the perpetrators of the war or armed rebellion;
(c) committing any other crime in the furtherance of the war or armed rebellion; or
(d) assisting or aiding the conduct or prosecution of the war or armed rebellion.
(2) A person referred to under subsection (1) shall not be prosecuted or subjected to any form of punishment for the participation in the war or rebellion for any crime committed in the cause of the war or armed rebellion.
In 2003, in its initial report to the Human Rights Committee, Uganda stated:
128. The Government has adopted a number of strategies aimed at persuading the different armed groups to give up rebellion. Significant among these is the enactment of the Amnesty Act, 2000. The main objective of this Act is to provide for amnesty to Ugandans involved in acts of a war like nature in various parts of the country.
129. Under section 3 of the Amnesty Act, amnesty is declared in respect of any Ugandan who has at any one time since 1986 engaged in or is engaging in war or armed rebellion against the Government of Uganda. A person granted amnesty shall not be prosecuted or subjected to any form of punishment for the participation in war or rebellion or for any crime committed in the cause of war or armed rebellion. An Amnesty Commission is established under the Act to administer the grant of amnesty and to help the former rebels to integrate in their communities.
In 2007, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Uganda stated:
97. In January 2000 the Amnesty Act became law after presidential assent. The main purpose of the law was to encourage a peaceful resolution of rebellion particularly by the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] in Northern Uganda. Accordingly the Amnesty Act offered full pardon for all persons (Children & Adults) involved in insurgency on condition that they abandon acts of rebellion and seek amnesty.
98. Section 3 (1) of the current Amnesty Act declares an Amnesty in respect to any Ugandan who has, at any time since 1986, engaged in war or armed rebellion against the Government of Uganda by actual participation in combat. … It also outlines that such persons shall not be prosecuted or subjected to any form of punishment for participation in the war or rebellion for any crime committed in the cause of the war or armed rebellion as long as they renounce their activities and apply for Amnesty. This is in consonance with the Article 28 (10) of the Constitution that guarantees non prosecution to those who claim the amnesty:
“No person shall be tried for any criminal offence if the person shows that he or she has been pardoned in respect of that offence.”
Therefore those … who request and receive the amnesty receive a pardon that is constitutionally guaranteed. As such, all rescued children and sometimes adults from the LRA have the right to seek amnesty and should be released into the hands of the Amnesty Commission or other rehabilitation agencies unconditionally. While the law guarantees non-prosecution of all persons, it does put on record the fact that the person granted amnesty was engaged in combatant acts against government and committed crimes, and therefore unfair to children, who are forcefully conscripted and forced to commit crimes.
In 2008, in its written reply to the Committee on the Rights of the Child concerning Uganda’s initial report under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Uganda stated:
The Amnesty (Amendment) Act, 2006 provides for Persons ineligible for amnesty as follows:
“Notwithstanding the provisions of section 2 of the principal Act a person shall not be eligible for grant of amnesty if he or she is declared not eligible by the Minister by statutory instrument made with the approval of parliament.”
Formal [c]riminal and civil justice measures shall be applied to any individual who is alleged to have committed serious crimes or human rights violations in the course of the conflict.
In 2008, whilst responding to questions from the Committee on the Rights of the Child related to Uganda’s initial report under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, the Ugandan delegate stated:
56. … [T]he five [captured] LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] commanders were not subject to amnesty or pardon. On the other hand, children who had been abducted at the age of 12 and had in some cases reached the age of 30 tended to be seen as victims: they had been forced to commit crimes, sometimes against their own relatives, but were not necessarily considered criminals.
60. … [T]he  Amnesty Act included a provision denying amnesty to those who had committed heinous crimes during the armed conflict. The guilt experienced by those who had committed crimes against their own kin was indeed an important problem. However, following broad consultation among communities on how to deal with such offences, it was felt that the traditional justice system known as “mato oput” provided the best hope of cleansing and forgiveness. Those who feared to return to their own village were often taken in by other communities who saw them as victims caught up in the tragedy of war.
63. … [T]he question of women who might have borne several children to men who had abducted them and raped them over a period of years was a complex one. In psychosocial terms, a woman had to come to terms with the reality that the children were not only hers but also those of a man who had violated her. On the other hand, while such actions constituted crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, it was necessary to decide whether peace or justice should come first. The victims had come forward and their captors must also be persuaded to come forward in order to move on to the next phase of restoring justice. The only way to achieve justice and peace at the same time was through the traditional “mato oput” system.