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The Uganda International Criminal Court Act

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In July 2008, the Ugandan government established a War Crimes Division of the High Court, and two years later, the Parliament passed an International Criminal Court Act. Both moves created a legal framework to prosecute serious international crimes in Uganda. The 2010 survey examined respondents’ awareness of and attitudes toward the ICC Act, finding that only a minority (5%) had heard about it. Among them, 45 percent believed that anyone who committed a mass atrocity should be tried under the ICC Act and 31 percent specifically mentioned the LRA commanders should be held accountable under the Act.

Without referring to the Act, the survey briefly asked respondents their opinions about capital punishment and age of criminal culpability, two heavily debated topics during the drafting of the ICC Act. A majority (68%) agreed that, if a court finds a person guilty of a grave crime such as murder or rape, the person should receive the death penalty (be killed). Similarly, a majority agreed that minors (under the age of 18 years) should be held accountable if they commit a grave crime such as murder or rape.

Also without referring to the Act, we further asked respondents who, in their opinion, should be in charge of prosecuting Kony and his top commanders. Among those who were aware of the existence of the ICC, a majority said it should be the ICC (70%), while 28 percent said it should be the Ugandan court system. In-depth interviews revealed the ICC is perceived more frequently as neutral and less corrupt than the Ugandan courts.

These responses should inform the ongoing debate about Uganda’s ICC Act, and whether the ICC should turn over its cases against Kony and his three top commanders to the Ugandan Courts. At the very least the responses suggest that the population needs to be further informed about and engaged in the discussion.