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2008 | Amnesty International, Report, Left to Their Own Devices: The Continued Suffering of Victims of the Conflict in Northern Uganda and the Need for Reparations

This report starts from the premise that the Government of Uganda is responsible for establishing effective mechanisms and programmes to provide reparations for victims of the war between the GoU and LRA. It should provide reparations both for those who suffered violations at the hands of the LRA (because it failed to protect its citizens against them) and the UPDF (because it is directly responsible for them). This is a responsibility the GoU has failed to meet.

It documents human rights violations perpetrated by the two main actors in the conflict: 1. by the LRA, including the abduction of thousands of children and adults, unlawful killing of thousands of civilians, the rape of thousands of women and beatings of men, women and children, and 2. by the UPDF, including the unlawful killings, rape and beatings of civilians. It criticises the general impunity for UPDF soldiers who committed human rights violations and the government policy of massive displacement of 1.8 million people in camps with dire living conditions.

Reparations are urgent, especially medical, surgical and psychological rehabilitation by the victims in a region faced with a serious lack and inadequacy of health centres. In section 3, the report outlines the following reparation needs: 1. medical, surgical and psychological responses to the needs of female victims of sexual violence (male victims of sexual violence are not mentioned in this report), 2. responding to the reintegration needs of child soldiers and former abductees, through counselling and psycho-social support, educational opportunities and vocational skills training, 3. restitution for destroyed land and property and compensation for death and injury, especially of breadwinners, 4. meeting general medical needs, 5. addressing the suffering of parents of abducted persons, 6. gathering evidence and providing information on the disappeared, 7. facilitating re-burials and memorials, 8. ensuring access to justice in court, 9. acknowledgement and apology by the wrongdoers.

Section 4 provides an overview of what reparation-like steps the GoU had undertaken up to 2008: 1. the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP), which, while it overlaps  with reparation needs, is not appropriate by itself because it is a development plan and not a reparations programme developed in consultation with the victims, 2. the Accountability and Reconciliation Agreement of the Juba Peace Talks, which Amnesty International criticises for not being sufficiently victim-focused and actionable, not providing avenues for victims to challenge the reparations programme or litigate and not safeguarding the independence of the proposed reparations programme, 3.  the Agreement on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of the Juba Peace Talks, criticised for being insufficiently pronounced on reparations and also not being clearly actionable, 4. the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) programme under the PRDP, criticised for its unclear and possibly non-inclusive definition of the ‘ex-combattant’ who can benefit from the Amnesty Commission’s DDR  activities.

The report further says a few words on the role of NGOs in northern Uganda (they have addressed some of the victims’ needs detailed above, but do not carry the final responsibility) and the role of the ICC Trust Fund for Victims (they appealed for 10 million euros to fund rehabilitation of victims of sexual violence of Uganda and neighbouring countries).

The report ends with a number of recommendations to the GoU, the Justice Law and Order Group (JLOS) and civil society, which can be read in section 8.