Museveni meets ICC chief prosecutor over Kony’s trial

President Museveni engages the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Mr Karim A. A. Khan KC, at State Lodge, Nakasero, Kampala, at the weekend. Photo | PPU

What you need to know:

  • Kony’s rebel group allegedly killed more than 100,000 people in northern Uganda.

President Museveni at the weekend met the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Mr Karim A. A. Khan KC, at State Lodge, Nakasero, Kampala.

According to a statement released by State House yesterday, during the meeting, the two principals discussed, among other issues, Uganda’s importance as a well-respected State party to the ICC Statute.

Mr Khan is quoted to have praised the Ugandan government for its vital role in putting an end to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in Northern Uganda and its support to the ICC in prosecuting the war criminals.

“I’m very grateful to share your knowledge of history and understanding of the region. This has been a very productive meeting and I hope to come to Uganda again for more such engagements,” Mr Khan said.

In 2023, the ICC chief prosecutor requested the court to hold a hearing on confirmation of charges against Mr Joseph Kony in his absence since he has been elusive to the court for long.

He said that was the first time the office of the chief ICC prosecutor made such a request to the court to prosecute a suspected warlord in his/ her absentia.

On November 23 2023, the , Pre-Trial Chamber II issued a preliminary decision on the Prosecutor’s Request to hold a confirmation of charges hearing in Mr Kony’s absence. The Prosecutor, according to the ICC, filed the document containing the charges against Mr Kony on January  19, 2024.

The Chamber will decide, in due course, on the Prosecutor’s request to hold a confirmation of charges hearing in Mr Kony’s absence.

 The investigation into the situation in Uganda was opened in 2004.

This saw an arrest warrant against Mr Kony, the founder and leader of the LRA, issued in 2005 for 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, namely murder, cruel treatment, enslavement and rape.  

However, the arrest warrant remains unexecuted to this day after Mr Kony eluded arrest, for more than 19 years.

“After a careful review of the circumstances, I have accordingly requested the Pre-Trial Chamber to hold a hearing to confirm the charges against Mr Kony in his absence under article 61(2)(b) of the Rome Statute and rules 123 and 125 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence,”Mr Khan said in 2022.

He added: “In parallel, my Office will intensify its work towards the arrest of Mr Kony who is the ICC’s longest-standing suspect at large.

Mr Khan said should the Pre-Trial Chamber grant his request, this would represent a meaningful milestone for victims who have waited  since 2005.

The meeting of the ICC chief prosecutor and President Museveni comes at the time when the same ICC has just upheld the 25-year jail sentence handed to Dominic Ongwen, one of Kony’s top commanders for his involvement in the insurgency in northern Uganda.

Ongwen has since been relocated to a prison in Norway to serve the rest of his jail sentence.

Another of LRA’s top commanders, Thomas Kwoyelo is soon putting up his defence after the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala ruled that he has 78 counts under the case categories of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other serious crimes under the Penal Code Act.

The Kony war that he instituted against government forces, claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced over 1.5 million people in northern Uganda.

dropped warrants

In July 2019, the International Criminal Court (ICC) dropped arrest warrants issued against two senior commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in 2005.

   Raska Lukwiya and Okot Odhiambo were among the five top LRA commanders wanted by ICC over war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in northern Uganda.

    Others were Joseph Kony, the top LRA commander, Vincent Otii, and Dominic Ongwen.

While addressing the media at Northern Uganda Media Club on July 16,2019, Ms Maria Kamara Mabinty, the ICC coordinator for Uganda and Kenya,  said the court had investigated beyond reasonable doubt and confirmed the death claims of Lukwiya and Odhiambo.

    “The arrest warrant against Raska Lukwiya and Okot Odhiambo have been effectively dropped because the court and the judges have satisfied themselves that those accused persons are deceased,” she said.

   Ms Kamara added: “As of now for Joseph Kony and Vicent Otti still have outstanding arrest warrants. There is no sufficient evidence to prove that Otti is dead.”

   But the court  at the time dismissed claims of Otti’s death, saying it would take his death into account if DNA tests proved it.

   On  November 17, 2023, the  Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC terminated proceedings against the alleged former Vice-Chairman and Second-in-Command of the LRA, Vincent Otti. The Chamber made this decision following the prosecution’s request to terminate proceedings against Otti. 

   According to the ICC, in its request, the Prosecution explained that “all available evidence indicates that Mr Otti was killed in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of Congo in October 2007.” In addition to the information previously submitted before the Chamber, the Prosecution appended two witness statements and explained that the only eye witness to Mr Otti’s killing must also be assumed dead. It indicated that further investigative steps are unlikely to result in any additional proof of Mr Otti’s death.

   “The Chamber recalled that the Court cannot exercise jurisdiction over a deceased person. The death of the suspect, therefore, required to terminate the proceedings against Mr Otti, further to which all relevant documents, including any warrants of arrest, are rendered without effect,” part of the ICC statement read.