On March 30, 2015, Ms. Joan Kagezi, Senior State Attorney at the Ministry of Justice of Uganda and Raphael Lemkin Seminar Alumna, was assassinated in Kampala. In recent months, she had been heading a team at the Ministry handling cases involving accused al-Shabab militants. From these events, it is clear that Joan was killed because of her unyielding dedication to her work in justice and atrocity prevention.
Following the devastating news about her murder, AIPR received an outpouring of support from Joan’s friends and colleagues. From these words it is clear that her sacrifice was not made in vain. Joan has given us the gift of understanding how necessary our work is and that we must never give up.
Below is only a small selection of the responses we’ve received from AIPR alumni across the world:
“We lost a powerful person—one who was committed to atrocity prevention. We will redouble her good efforts towards making the world a more safe and harmonious place.”
“I am quite saddened about the whole affair, but this should not deter us.”
“A very brave, courageous, and inspiring woman—a mother of four children at that.”
“I see it is a loss, but we should not loose hope. As we have agreed, let us do something and Joan will live on.”
Judi Erongot, Assistant Coordinator of the Uganda Coalition for the International Criminal Court and Focal Point Person for the National Transitional Justice Coalition sent AIPR a heartfelt poem that she authored about Joan—you can read it by clicking here. The Institute for Security Studies, an African organization that aims to enhance human security on the continent, also had the privilege of working closely with Joan. “Her humble nature, confidence and selfless commitment to criminal justice will be an enduring contribution to Africa,” said Anton du Plessis, ISS Managing Director. And AIPR’s Director of African Programs Ashad Sentongo said she was “a key player in advancing the international agenda for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities.”
Joan lived her life in service of a greater good and in death this will not change. When she attended the Lemkin Seminar in November of 2013, she brought with her a vast wealth of experience in the prosecution of atrocity crimes at the High Court of Uganda. She had spent many years implementing transitional justice measures in the war torn communities of her country, and her contribution raised the caliber of the dialogue at the seminar immensely. Following her time with us in Poland, she continued to work with AIPR through our various programming in Africa, and in so many ways represented the best of those in our field. We are honored to have had the privilege of knowing her and experiencing her strength in the face of such adversity. Those that have taken her from us failed to consider how strong her impact was on our lives and our work. They have not halted her efforts—they have spurred them on.
In her honor, AIPR has started a scholarship fund in Joan’s name that will fund the participation of one person from a Ministry of Justice to attend each year our Global Raphael Lemkin Seminar in Poland. This way her work will, in name, continue through our seminars. If you would like to make a small financial contribution towards this fund, we welcome your support. May all those working for justice and prevention shed light on the dark side of our humanity. We at AIPR will continue to do all we can to make sure that light never goes out.