UN envoy on children urges Uganda to prosecute LRA officer

15 May 2012

UN envoy on children urges Uganda to prosecute LRA officer

14 May 2012 - A top UN envoy today urged the Ugandan government to bring to justice a senior commander of the brutal Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), who was captured over the weekend.

The LRA commander, Caesar Acellam Otto, is responsible for some of the worst abuses against children, according to Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy.

Ugandan authorities announced on Saturday that the country's army had captured Mr. Acellam, one of LRA's top military leaders, in the Central African Republic (CAR).

"I am encouraged by the capture of one of the worst perpetrators of child rights violations, and hope that the Ugandan authorities would not apply amnesty, but instead bring him to justice," Ms. Coomaraswamy said in a news release.

"The arrest and subsequent prosecution of Acellam would send a strong message to the LRA leadership that they will be held accountable for their actions," she added.

Uganda's existing Amnesty Act provides blanket amnesty for LRA members, including for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and gross violations of human rights.

Mr. Acellam was seized with his wife and child as well as a 12-year-old girl from CAR, whose status in his family remains unclear. The family is currently in Ugandan custody in neighbouring South Sudan, while the 12-year old girl is in CAR.

Ms. Coomaraswamy stressed that children who are separated from the LRA should be excluded from criminal prosecution due to their status as minors forced into the group against their will.

She encouraged the Ugandan army to hand over children separated from the LRA to civilian child protection institutions, in line with local procedures and international standards.

The LRA, a notoriously violent armed group believed to be made up of between 200 and 500 fighters, is currently active in CAR, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, where it has raided villages and subjected civilians to acts of brutality and plunder.

The group, which originated in northern Uganda in the late 1980s, has over the years abducted children and forced them to commit atrocities against other people and used kidnapped girls as sex slaves. It has also a history of killing and mutilating its victims.