Uganda: "Breaking God's commands": The destruction of childhood by the Lord's Resistance Army

September 17, 1997

Uganda: "Breaking God's commands": The destruction of childhood by the Lord's Resistance Army

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Amnesty International will also be submitting this report to the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women. Enabling women and girl children to lead lives free from actual or the threat of violence, including sexual violence, should be a priority. The organization will be calling on her to investigate the situation in Uganda with a view to identifying practical recommendations on how this can be achieved.

As the human rights arm of the Organization of African Unity, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has a lead responsibility to address the abuse of children's rights on the continent. Amnesty International urges the commission to place the human rights of children, especially those in armed conflict situations, on the agenda of its next meeting in October 1997. Amnesty International believes that the commission should issue a forceful call to African states to ratify the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, so that it will come into force in the near future.

Amnesty International is calling on donor governments to consider how they could support, first, the Uganda Human Rights Commission should it set in motion the creation of an office in Gulu, and, secondly, other initiatives aimed at publicly confronting the legacy of human rights abuses since 1986. These might include a public inquiry or a truth commission.

Summary of recommendations

For the human rights of children in northern Uganda to be protected, there is need for action by the leadership of the LRA, the Sudan Government, the Uganda Government, Ugandan civil society and the international community. The first stage has to be to acknowledge the scale of the problem; the second is for all concerned parties to develop the will to take the difficult political steps required to prevent further human rights abuses and the continued blight of the lives of thousands of children.

Amnesty International makes the following recommendations:

To the LRA

As an armed opposition movement, the LRA is obliged under international law to observe Article 3, common to all four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II. To this end, the LRA should:

  • end all forcible abduction of children and release all children currently held as captives or child-soldiers;
  • put a stop to rape, sexual abuse and other forms of torture or ill-treatment;
  • cease cruel or degrading punishment;
  • end deliberate and arbitrary killings.

In addition, the LRA should:

  • make a public commitment to observing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;
  • allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to places where children and other abducted persons are being held.

To the Sudan Government

The Sudan Government has the power to free children abducted by the LRA. Its support and cooperation mean that it can be held responsible for human rights abuses carried out by the movement. In the light of this, the Sudan Government should: