Uganda: Peace vs. Justice

Hi AIDP community –

The good folks over at prawfsblawg have invited me to a couple of week stint as a guest blogger, so it’ll be interesting to air some developments in international criminal law in a forum populated (mostly) by non-international law types.

I will also cross post here.

My first post at prawfsblawg was on the question of Peace vs. Justice in Uganda. A slightly abridged version follows below:

In my book Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law (…thanks, Kevin, for the plug over at Opinio Juris) I explore some difficult questions regarding the role of prosecution and punishment as responses to genocide and crimes against humanity.  And I question our reliance on liberal legalism – in particular Westernized trials and correctional models that focus on incarceration – as a method to seek justice in the wake of such tragedies.

One interesting case study which keeps on unfolding is Uganda. For the past 20 years, northern Uganda has been subject to a conflict between the Ugandan government and a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).  The LRA campaign has brutalized villages in northern Uganda. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and well over one million residents displaced. The LRA has conscripted child soldiers and used sexual violence in its campaigns. Four of its leaders have been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). For at least two years or so, albeit in halting fashion, the LRA has been involved in peace negotiations with the Ugandan government. The ICC indictments have become a sticking point in the discussions. The LRA balks at signing a peace deal so long as the indictments remain open. And, although the Ugandan government initially referred the LRA violence to the ICC, it, too, is hedging regarding the ICC indictments.

What to do? Does the pusuit of justice, as seen through prosecution at the ICC, get in the way of peace?  Or is peace impossible without justice?

Two interesting additional facts:

1. Many people who actually live in northern Uganda, for example among the Acholi population, support justice. But for these people justice means traditional community methods of dispute resolution and integration — particularly for child soldiers — that are deeply symbolic, communicative, and restorative. Some community members have implored the ICC not to continue with the indictments.

2.The Ugandan government, although having referred LRA violence to the ICC, was found responsible by the International Court of Justice in 2005 for breaches of international humanitarian law and for unlawful use of force in its own military incursions into a neighboring state, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A slightly longer version with comment(s) is accessible through: