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HomeNewsICC to Try Joseph Kony in Absentia; Closes LRA Probe 

ICC to Try Joseph Kony in Absentia; Closes LRA Probe 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has closed its investigation into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda.

The court said Joseph Kony, who has evaded capture for over two decades, will be tried in absentia. 

“Today, I have made the decision that, beyond the outstanding case against Mr Kony, my Office will not pursue new lines of inquiry in the Situation in Uganda,” said ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan in a statement on Friday afternoon.

“Accordingly, absent a significant change in circumstances and without prejudice to all work required to support the ongoing judicial process, the investigation phase in the Situation in Uganda is concluded,” Khan noted. 

“The competent authorities of the Republic of Uganda have been notified of the decision.”

The prosecutor said the closure of the investigation in the Situation in Uganda “does not mean that the activities of the Office in this situation are over.”

He added: “My Office will now concentrate its efforts in ensuring the successful prosecution of Joseph Kony. Concerted efforts with ICC Registry and relevant partners will continue to be devoted to secure his arrest.”

Contacted for comment, Uganda’s government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said Khan will arrive in Uganda this Friday for a meeting with Director General of External Security Organisation Amb. Joseph Ocwet, Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka and President Museveni tomorrow.

He said, “in regards to the conclusion of investigations of atrocities by the LRA, indictment, charge and possible prosecution of Joseph Kony – the only suspect referred to the ICC by Uganda still at large.”

Crimes

On 29 July 2004, following a referral from the Government of Uganda, ICC opened an investigation concerning crimes committed by LRA between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005.

Following an investigation, on 6 May 2005, ICC issued warrants of arrest against five LRA commanders  – Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo, Vincent Otti, Dominic Ongwen and Joseph Kony.

Dominic Ongwen, former LRA commander

The armed group was accused of committing gross violations of human rights, including sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against children in northern Uganda.

In relation to three of the five warrants of arrest issued, Pre-Trial Chamber II terminated proceedings against Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo and Vincent Otti due to their deaths.

The ICC’s investigations led to the successful prosecution and conviction of Dominic Ongwen, for  61 counts comprising crimes against humanity and war crimes, which include: attacks on civilian populations, sexual slavery, forced marriage and forced pregnancy, murder, mutilation, torture, pillaging, abduction and other atrocities committed by LRA fighters under Dominic Ongwen’s command. 

On 6 May 2021, Mr Ongwen, was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment. On 15 December 2022, Dominic Ongwen’s conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal, and reparations proceedings are currently underway.

Currently, said Khan, Joseph Kony remains at large and is the only remaining suspect in the case.

“On 28 November 2022, my Office sought to take an initial step towards justice for the countless victims of his alleged crimes, through our request to Pre-Trial Chamber II to authorise a hearing to confirm the charges against him in his absence,” said Khan.

“On 23 November 2023, the Pre-Trial Chamber ordered my Office to submit a document containing the charges to be filed before 19 January 2024. The Office is committed to pursuing its efforts to see these proceedings move forward. “

Explaining his reasons for closing the investigation, Khan said taking such decisions is an essential part of articulating and implementing an effective prosecutorial strategy. 

“Given the scale of criminality addressed by the ICC, it is critical that I exercise the discretion afforded to me under the Rome Statute to effectively manage the discharge of my mandate.  I have been clear since taking up my position in June 2021: I am not willing to continue to overpromise and underdeliver for survivors and the families of victims. To achieve meaningful results, we must be robust in our analysis of how resources can be most effectively deployed to deliver the greatest impact for those affected by crimes falling within our jurisdiction globally,” he argued. 

He said his Office would seek to increase its engagement with Ugandan national institutions, with the goal of strengthening and supporting accountability efforts through an enhanced cooperation framework. 

“Complementarity and cooperation can only be effective if the Court, the States Parties and partners work together to shoulder the weighty responsibilities envisaged by the Rome Statute and demanded by victims.”

UPDF dislodged Kony from his main hideouts in Garamba Forest in 2008. Hundreds of LRA rebels have since defected to the Ugandan government. 

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