New York, 14 May – The Ugandan army last Saturday captured Caesar Acellam Otto, one of the top military leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army, in the Central African Republic.
Along with Joseph Kony and a handful of senior rebel commanders, he is responsible for the most egregious violations committed against children in the central African region.
“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,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy said.
“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,” SRSG Coomaraswamy said.
Uganda’s existing Amnesty Act provides blanket amnesty for LRA members, including for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and gross violations of human rights.
Acellam was captured together with his wife, child, as well as a Central African 12-year old girl whose role is unclear. The family is currently in Ugandan custody in South Sudan while the 12-year old girl is in the Central African Republic . Children who are separated from the LRA should be excluded from criminal prosecution because of their childhood and forced association with the LRA.
The LRA, a notoriously violent armed group composed of 200 to 500 fighters currently operates in the Central African Republic , the Democratic Republic of the Congo , as well as South Sudan , where it causes enormous suffering to civilians, including children. The LRA leadership systematically abducts children, forces them to commit atrocities against others, uses girls as sexual slaves, and kills and mutilates children when they disobey their orders or escape.
“I urge troops conducting operations against the LRA to ensure that civilians are protected at all times,” SRSG Coomaraswamy said, “and encourage the Ugandan army to hand over the children separated from the LRA to civilian child protection actors in line with their internal procedures and international standards.”
The wife and children should also receive proper reintegration assistance including medical treatment, psychosocial support as well as education and skill straining to facilitate their return to civilian life.
(Text of a Press Release)