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Efforts to arrest Joseph Kony must respect human rights

The arrest of Joseph Kony, a prominent leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), must be carried out in accordance with human rights standards, Amnesty International said today following the massive public response to the Kony 2012 campaign.

Kony and three other LRA leaders have evaded capture since 2005 when they were charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) with crimes against humanity and a raft of war crimes, including murder, forcible enlistment of Children's rights under the age of 15, sexual slavery and rape.  

For many years, Amnesty International has been calling for the LRA leaders to be arrested. Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director Erwin van der Borght said:

“Joseph Kony and other LRA leaders have evaded arrest for far too long and this campaign is a salient reminder of the continuing crimes by LRA members and the need to arrest and surrender their leaders to the ICC so they can face trial.”

For more than two decades, Amnesty International has documented crimes committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army and their horrific impact on the lives of thousands of civilians in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Uganda.

Amnesty International has also documented human rights violations committed by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces against the civilian communities where the LRA were present, and against captured LRA members.

Erwin van der Borght added:

“It is important to remember that many of LRA members were themselves victims of human rights violations including forcible recruitment.  Forces pursuing the LRA must seek to arrest the suspects in accordance with international law.”

Every effort must also be taken to protect the civilian communities where the LRA are present, recognizing that they are at grave danger of attack and being forcibly recruited into the LRA.

Amnesty International believes that efforts to arrest Joseph Kony should be led by the governments of the countries in the region where the LRA operates, not by the US armed forces. The UN and the African Union, both of which are involved in the effort to arrest the LRA suspects, also have an essential role to play in supporting efforts to arrest the LRA leaders, in protecting affected communities and monitoring and reporting on the status of human rights protection.

Erwin van der Borght said:
“Anyone joining the Kony 2012 campaign should insist that efforts to arrest Joseph Kony must respect human rights. It is also vital to make sure that any action ensures the protection of civilians in the surrounding areas.”

The death of any of the accused men would deny justice to the victims of LRA abuses.

Measures also need to be taken to provide reparation to the victims of human rights violations by the LRA to address their suffering, including providing medical and psychological care to victims of sexual violence and reintegrating child soldiers back into their communities and to make education and vocational training available to them.  

Background documents

1 December 1994
Uganda: Detentions of suspected government opponents without charge or trial in the North (AFR 59/004/1994) “The detentions occur in the context of continuing counter-insurgency operations in the North by the army against the LRA, an armed opposition group itself responsible for human rights abuses. AI fears that many of those still detained may be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned for non-violent politicial beliefs which they hold, or are believed to hold by virtue of their Acholi ethnic origin.”

17 September 1997 (Report)
Uganda: "Breaking God's commands": The destruction of childhood by the Lord's Resistance Army (AFR 59/001/1997)

“The report, which is a call to an end to human rights abuses against Children's rights concludes with recommendations to the LRA, the Sudan Government, the Ugandan Government, Ugandan civil society and the international community.”

1 March 1999
Uganda: Stop child abductions for slave soldiering

17 March 1999 (Report)
Uganda: Breaking the circle: Protecting human rights in the northern war zone
“This report looks at the issue of continuing human rights violations committed against civilians in Uganda by the government forces and those of the armed opposition.”

19 September 2002
Uganda: Fear for safety/Fear of torture or ill-treatment/possible extrajudicial execution, twenty prisoners in Northern Uganda.

“Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of 19 prisoners held by the Ugandan army, the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) in Gulu Municipality, northern Uganda.” 

30 January 2004 (Public Statement)
Uganda: First steps to investigate crimes must be part of comprehensive plan to end impunity 

24 February 2004 (Press Release)
Uganda: Government should address attacks on civilians urgently 

28 July 2004 (Public Statement)
Uganda: International Criminal Court investigation an important step toward ending impunity 

16 November 2004 (Public Statement)
Uganda: Government cannot prevent the International Criminal Court from investigating crimes (AFR 59/008/2004) 

16 July 2005
Uganda: Violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Northern Uganda (AFR 59/001/2005) 

13 October 2005 (News Flash)
Uganda: Governments must back first ever arrest warrants by International Criminal Court 

18 November 2005
Uganda: Child “Night Commuters” (AFR 59/013/2005) 

28 November 2007
Uganda: Arrest Now! Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen (AFR 59/008/2007)…
Post card:…;

30 November 2007
Uganda: Doubly Traumatised: The lack of access to justice by Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights victims of sexual and gender-based violence in northern Uganda (AFR 59/005/2007)…;

20 February 2008
Uganda: Government cannot negotiate away International Criminal Court arrest warrants for LRA (PRE01/056/2008)…;

17 November 2008
Ugandan government must establish reparations programme for war victims…;

17 November 2008
Uganda: Left to their own devices: The continued suffering of victims of the conflict in northern Uganda and the need for reparations (AFR 59/009/2008)…;

17 November 2008
Uganda: Government miserably failing in care of victims of conflict…;

18 February 2009 (Press Release)…;

23 September 2011
Uganda’s amnesty for LRA commander a ‘setback’ for justice…

20 October 2011 (report)
Central African Republic: Action needed to end decades of abuse (AFR 19/001/2011)
(includes discussion on LRA abuses in CAR)

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