Establishing a Precedent in Uganda: The Legitimacy of National Amnesties under the ICC


After 14 years of unconscionable wrath against local civilians, including enforced recruitment of thousands of child soldiers, the rebel group The Lord’s Resistance Army (“LRA”) was offered amnesty by the Ugandan government in 2000. However, as the conflict continued unabated, the Ugandan government, for the first time in the history of the Court, referred its case to the International Criminal Court (“ICC”). The ICC Prosecutor announced the beginning of an investigation and issued warrants for seven top LRA officers in October of 2005. The potential ICC prosecution raises many questions about the jurisdiction of the new court, including whether the Court should defer to national amnesty programs. Some experts argue that a rigid criminal prosecution can prolong a conflict, exacerbates the suffering of the country’s citizens, and diminishes the value of future amnesties as peace-building tools. Critics of amnesties, on the other hand, contend that honoring amnesties promotes a culture of impunity and contravenes the obligation of states to prosecute perpetrators of serious international crimes. This Comment holds that although Uganda’s amnesty act falls short of the complementarity requirements of Article 17 of the Rome Statute, an analysis of its shortcomings illuminates how a post-conflict state under amnesty legislation can structure an amnesty program that may satisfy Rome Statute requirements. Accordingly, this tradegy presents an opportunity for the ICC and Ugandans to create a template for national amnesty programs, in conjunction with truth commissions, that could both honor the state obligation to prosecute grave crimes while simultaneously preserving the integrity of future amnesty grants.


Courts | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Human Rights Law | International Law | Jurisdiction

Date of this Version

July 2006