In our work at the Justice and Reconciliation Project, we have found that survivors of the conflict tend to have different views on prosecution – while some think there is need for prosecution others think that it is better to forgive and move on. Some of the views of the victims change over time depending on various factors such as lack of trust in the prosecutorial institutions both locally and internationally or lack of knowledge on transitional justice processes. The different views of the women on the same subject illustrates that transitional justice processes should be enforced together to complement each other depending on the society, nature and context of the conflict.
Jolly and Maggie* were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army and stayed for over five years in captivity. They have differing views on prosecution as a form of accountability for the atrocities committees during the war. In this interview with Gender Justice Project Officer, Nancy Apiyo, They share their views with us.
* Not their real names.
Voices Magazine: What is your view on prosecution?
Those who were responsible for heinous crimes should be prosecuted so that they are accountable for what they did, if not it will continue. When they want to repeat the same thing in the future they will know that they can be held accountable. If people are prosecuted it will stop others from doing the same. It is good for people to be accountable for what they did. There are laws that forbid actions committed during the war [and] everyone is subject to those laws.
Who should be prosecuted for war crimes?
People should be prosecuted depending on their crimes or what they did. Low ranked soldiers should be punished even if they are given a lighter punishment. Not only top commanders have to be punished. For example junior commanders also raped women without Kony’s orders. Therefore they should be given punishment and not let to go free because they can also go to the bush on their own. They broke orders and brought problems to top commanders by committing crimes which the commanders had forbidden.
Can prosecution lead to restoration?
If those who committed atrocities are prosecuted people can heal from what they did. If they are left to go free people feel bad. It should be up to people to decide the time of sentence depending on if people have forgiven the person or not. Some commanders also feel safer and have less guilt conscience when they are in prison. The punishment should not be death sentence but just a few years to make them pay for what they did.
Should women who committed crimes be punished?
No woman in the Lord’s Resistance Army committed crimes that deserve punishment. They had children and could not get time to commit crimes. They had to protect their children. Women went to loot food most of the time to survive.
[But] if women committed heinous crimes they should also be accountable and prosecuted so that other women do not do the same. People have to abide by the law and not vice versa.
What is your view on prosecution?
It is not good to prosecute because people who are still in the bush may decide not to come back home. There is no need for prosecution. Everyone is capable of committing a crime. If someone is forgiven he can become human again. It also helps those still in the bush to return. It is not right to prosecute when other people are still in the bush.
What if everyone had returned?
It is not good to prosecute. If someone asks for forgiveness they should be forgiven. If there is genuine forgiveness people should be let free. No one went to the bush willingly. No one went to a training wing so as to join the rebels. Everyone was abducted. Everyone should be forgiven. It is not good to imprison. It is important to know what crime someone committed. There is no need of imprisoning someone innocent.
How can people be held accountable?
If someone accepts committing the crime, he or she is already accountable. When he or she asks for forgiveness that is accountability. If he or she asks for forgiveness from the government, he or she should be forgiven. Forgiveness is very good. If someone surrenders from fighting he or she has asked for forgiveness. By the time someone asks for forgiveness, it is as though he or she has said ‘I am sorry I did bad and I want to return to stay with people’.
How can impunity be stopped?
If the person asks for forgiveness and does not repeat the crime, it means he is remorseful and will not do it again.