- In February the LRA attacked Barlonyo Internally Displaced People Camp in Lira District, killing over 200 people. President Museveni visited the district and apologized for the lack of protection provided by the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF).
From July onwards, UPDF military interventions in Sudan and LRA defections led to a downturn in LRA attacks. The government renewed the Amnesty Act for a further three months in August. The Act offered full pardon for those involved in insurgency who abandoned acts of rebellion. In August President Museveni reversed the government’s previous position of excluding the LRA leadership from possible pardon by declaring that Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA, had only one chance to seek amnesty.
On 14 November President Museveni ordered a seven-day ceasefire, suspending UPDF operations in a limited area of Acholi region to allow the LRA leadership to meet in an effort to end hostilities. The peace initiative was apparently instigated by Betty Bigombe, former Minister of State in charge of the pacification of northern Uganda.The ceasefire was renewed on several occasions until the end of the year.
Referral to the International Criminal Court
In January the Prosecutor of the ICC announced that he would take steps to investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the conflict in northern Uganda. This followed a request from the Ugandan government at the end of 2003 for the ICC to investigate crimes committed by the LRA. In July the ICC Prosecutor indicated that he would investigate crimes by both the LRA and government forces. The government pledged its support for the ICC investigations and published the International Criminal Court Bill to implement the ICC Statute in domestic law. The Bill had not been enacted by the end of 2004.
In November, during government efforts to resolve the conflict, officials announced that if leaders of the LRA were to stop fighting and engage in internal reconciliation mechanisms, the state could withdraw its case from the ICC. However, there is no evidence that once a state party has referred a situation to the ICC that it can “withdraw” the referral.
Violence against women
Reports of rape, including of young girls, were widespread and appeared to be on the increase. In Kabarole, in the west, 54 children were reportedly raped in the first quarter of 2004. In Gulu, the figure rose from 55 in August to 65 in September. Between January and June, 320 child rape cases were reported in the southern area in the districts of Rakai, Kalangala, Masaka and Sembalule, and 682 in Kampala, compared to 437 for the same period in 2003. Nearly half those facing capital charges were accused of raping children.
Support services remained inadequate, and in the absence of appropriate medication, the population, especially children and women, was highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
Reports of torture by law enforcement officers, security agents and the army persisted. Torture continued to be used to extract confessions and as a means of punishment.
- In April, a survivor of torture by security agents of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence was awarded financial compensation by the Uganda Human Rights Commission. The Commission held the government liable for violating the survivor’s rights to liberty and protection from torture and ill-treatment. The government had not settled the award by the end of 2004.
Freedom of expression
Freedom of expression in the media continued to be under serious attack.