ICC justifies charging Kony in absentia

Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony. PHOTO/ FILE

What you need to know:

  •  The Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant for Kony in 2005 on allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has detailed why it wants the 33 charges slapped against Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony confirmed.
Addressing the media in Gulu City yesterday, Mr Dahirou Santana, the international cooperation advisor in the office of the ICC chief prosecutor, said confirming the charges against Kony in absentia would renew efforts to arrest him.
 “By going into this process, we would galvanise the efforts from the international community to ensure that Kony is apprehended,” Mr Santana said.
The Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant for Kony in 2005 on allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Kony launched a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda more than three decades ago unleashing a campaign of terror that spread to several other countries.
In November last year, the office of the chief prosecutor led by Mr Karim Khan tabled a submission before the court’s Pre-trial Chamber requesting its judges to confirm the 33 charges against Kony even though he had not yet been arrested.
“Once the judge grants us that request, we will add additional charges to the charges that are already in the warrants of arrest. We will also be relying on evidence that was presented in [Dominic] Ongwen’s case as much as possible,” Mr Santana said.
Ogwen is a former LRA child soldier and army commander who was sentenced to 25 years in jail for war crimes.
This publication understands that both the offices of public counsel for victims and the public counsel for defence requested the court to allow them to make submissions on the prosecutions’ request.

Mr Dahirou Santana during the press conference in Gulu City on January 23, 2023. PHOTO/TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

However, judges declined the requests stating that such submissions were premature since the Pre-trial Chamber was yet to issue an order on the conduct of the proceedings, detailing how they will run those proceedings regarding the confirmation of charges against Kony.
Article 61 (2)b of the Rome Statute allows the prosecutor to request the chamber to carry out the hearing when the suspect has fled, or cannot be found and that all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that he appears before the judges.
It also allows the prosecutor to inform the person (suspect) about the charges slapped against him and that a hearing to confirm the charge will be held against that person.
In the case of Kony, Mr Santana said the prosecution’s major task will be to demonstrate to the court that the evidence supporting the charges brought against the suspect is enough for the suspect to be committed to trial.

“The hearing would allow the evidence to be heard so that the victims and communities affected can be aware of the evidence we intend to rely upon and we also hope that this confirmation hearing would also show the nature and strength of the evidence we intend to bring forward,” Mr Santana stated.
According to him, the prosecution submitted the request in November.
This publication also established that the 33 charges heaped on Kony were the outcome of the first investigations that were conducted in early 2004 onwards before the warrants of arrest were issued. While 22 are crimes against humanity, 11 are war crimes charges.

The crimes include murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement, rape, intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population, pillaging, and forced conscription of child soldiers, among others, allegedly committed after July 2002.
Asked about the quality of evidence against Kony, Mr Santana said they have all the evidence and witnesses required, adding that charges against Kony could triple once the Pretrial Chamber grants their request to confirm the charges against him.