World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Uganda: Army & Rebels Commit Atrocities in North

Uganda: Army and Rebels Commit Atrocities in the North

International Criminal Court Must Investigate Abuses on Both Sides

The Ugandan military and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army continue to kill, rape and uproot civilians in northern Uganda with brazen impunity, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

A brutal rebel group responsible for countless atrocities, the Lord's Resistance Army continues to wage war against the Ugandan government, whose undisciplined army has committed crimes against civilians, the very people they are supposed to protect, with near-total impunity. Today, as the war continues into its 19th year, 1.9 million displaced civilians in northern Uganda remain isolated, ignored and unprotected, vulnerable to abuses by both rebel and army forces.

The 76-page report, “Uprooted and Forgotten: Impunity and Human Rights Abuses in Northern Uganda,” documents how the ongoing lack of accountability and civilian protection in the north has fueled atrocities by both sides. In each of the displaced persons camps visited, Human Rights Watch found cases of abuse by Ugandan government forces as well as rebel combatants.

“Uganda has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute abuses by the Lord's Resistance Army,” said Jemera Rone, Uganda researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But the Ugandan army itself has carried out serious crimes that demand prosecution.”

The International Criminal Court assumed jurisdiction to investigate serious war crimes in northern Uganda last year after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni referred the matter to the court. So far, the court has failed to effectively communicate its mandate to the people of northern Uganda. This has undermined the court's credibility and impartiality in the eyes of many there.

In recent years, the Lord's Resistance Army has committed atrocious crimes against the civilian population in northern Uganda. These crimes include torture and mutilation, abduction, sexual violence, forced recruitment, and killing of people it considers supporters of the government.

“Children have been the primary victims of rebel abuses, although adults have not been spared,” Rone said.

At the same time, soldiers in Uganda’s national army have raped, beaten, arbitrarily detained and killed civilians in camps. Some beatings are inflicted for minor infractions such as being outside the camp a few minutes past curfew.

“The Ugandan government has failed to pursue prosecutions of military officers before national courts that could put an end to such violations,” said Rone.

Abuses against civilians by Ugandan soldiers in Cwero and Awach displaced persons camps in Gulu district stood out among the 10 camps that Human Rights Watch visited in February and March. Human Rights Watch found that the 11th Battalion of the Uganda Peoples' Defence Forces (UPDF), based in Cwero and Awach camps of Gulu district, committed numerous deliberate killings and constant beatings of civilians during early 2005 when it was assigned to those camps. These abuses were not the acts of just a few undisciplined soldiers.

“Instead of holding the 11th Battalion's commanders accountable for the atrocities committed on their watch, the Uganda army transferred the unit to another area of the country where its soldiers and officers can continue to commit abuses of different innocent civilians,” said Rone.

The Ugandan armed forces have failed to prosecute or otherwise meaningfully discipline soldiers and their officers responsible for abuses in the north. No effective accountability structure exists in the camps. Reports of abuses by government forces rarely result in any investigation or prosecution of military personnel. While there is a military detachment in each camp, there are few police to provide for basic law and order.

Human Rights Watch also found that local civilian officials, police and the civilian criminal courts are not able to hold the army accountable, although they have jurisdiction over military personnel. Ultimately, the level of discipline, protection of civilians and accountability rests on the will and personality of the immediate commander.

“Justice in northern Uganda requires that the International Criminal Court thoroughly examine government forces' crimes against the civilian population as well as those committed by the rebels,” said Rone.

Human Rights Watch called for meaningful national prosecutions, which would be a valuable supplement to the International Criminal Court’s investigation. In addition, a broader truth-telling process would give people in northern Uganda a forum in which they could raise human rights abuses that occurred during the entire 19 years of war. This process could work alongside traditional remedies in which those affected wish to participate.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>


Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news