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2007 | Refugee Law Project, Makerere University, Press Statement, Prosecuting Crimes or Righting Wrongs: Where is Uganda Heading to?

This statement by the Refugee Law Project comes at the time of JLOS’ (the government Justice Law and Order Sector) consultations on a transitional justice proces which followed the signing of the Agreement on Accountability and Reconciliation. RLP expresses concern the JLOS’ development of a transitional justice process might prioritise prosecutions over reparations. It asks: “Will the prosecution of a handful of perpetrators of crimes be at the cost of a broader program of reparations and compensation for the wrongs done to their victims?”.

In Sierra Leone, the money used for prosecutions of perpetrators was 100 time greater than the money used on reparations for victims: $31 million per perpetrator versus less than $100 per registered victim, with the vast majority of victims never receiving any reparations at all. Victims do not see justice done when vast amounts of money are spent on those who violated their rights while they lack the relatively little money that is needed to rebuild their lives. Where reparations could “right the wrong” suffered, prosecutions do not.

It is also pointed out that in ordinary prosecutorial systems, only victims who testify before a court receive reparations, with reparations being closer to payment for testifying than an acknowledgement of wrong. Further, only very few victims will be able to show a direct relationship between their victimhood and the handful of perpetrators that will be tried.

RLP uses the example of Sierra Leone to warn JLOS for a similar disproportionality. It concludes: “A better balance needs to be struck between the different aspects of transitional justice. For a start, it would help to establish some kind of guiding ratio for spending on prosecution relative to reparations: Instead of 100:1, how about 50:50?