PHILADELPHIA –- A University of Pennsylvania Law School group is recommending ways to implement the Agreement on Justice and Accountability between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group.
Twelve Penn Law students and a professor, William Burke-White, are making the recommendations in a report on behalf of the Ugandan government.
The students spent 10 days in Uganda in January as part of Burke-White’s “Transitional Justice Seminar.”
“My seminar focuses on topics such as the interaction between domestic and international norms of justice and the tension between peace and justice,” Burke-White said. “Often, achieving justice can be an obstacle to peace, because justice requires an accounting of misdeeds.”
“Having the opportunity to go to Uganda provided unparalleled insight for our research,” Sarah Ashfaq, one of the students, said. “We were able to speak to a vast array of individuals, ranging from government officials; delegates for the rebels; individual victims, including child soldiers and child mothers; international relief organizations; and the media.”
The students’ report recommends that the war-torn nation modify its eight-year-old Amnesty Act, form a truth and reconciliation commission with subpoena powers, establish a special domestic court to prosecute rebel leaders as an alternative to the International Criminal Court and recognize the special needs of women and children.
“It is our hope to prepare a report not only for the government of Uganda but also one for the international community at large,” Rachel Loftspring, another of the students, said. “It is imperative to shed light on the important issues on the ground. The civil war has been ongoing for 20 years, and recent fighting in the region has exacerbated the need for sustainable peace."
The students present their recommendations to representatives of non-governmental organizations, the U.S. State Department, Congress and the Ugandan government in May.