The chief prosecutor of the ICC is trying to revive the case against the Ugandan rebel commander in his absence, as he has eluded capture for nearly 20 years.
The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has sought to revive the case against the fugitive Ugandan rebel commander Joseph KonyWho remains free since an arrest warrant was issued in 2005 on charges of war crimes.
Prosecutor Karim Khan said he had asked the judges for permission to hold a hearing in his absence to confirm the charges against Kony, the head of the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
“This is the first time my office has made such a request since the establishment of the ICC,” Khan said.
Kony launched a bloody uprising more than three decades ago to impose his own version of the Ten Commandments in northern Uganda, unleashing a campaign of “terror” that spread to several neighboring countries.
The Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant for Kony in 2005 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and US President Barack Obama launched a small number of US troops in 2011 to help regional armies capture him.
“However, this arrest warrant remains unenforceable to this day. Mr. Kony has been trying to evade legal proceedings before this court for more than 17 years, despite constant efforts,” Khan said in a statement.
“I have decided that it is both necessary and appropriate to attempt to pursue the proceedings against him to the fullest extent consistent with the Rome Statute,” he said, the charter governing the ICC.
Defendants cannot be tried in absentia at the ICC, but it is possible to have confirmation hearings while still a fugitive, Khan explained.
Confirming the charges against Kony would make it easier and faster to bring him to justice should he be caught, the prosecutor added.
Any hearing involving Kony would be a “meaningful milestone for the victims of Kony’s crimes who have patiently waited for justice for nearly two decades,” Khan said.
Starting with a bloody uprising in northern Uganda against President Yoweri Museveni, the LRA’s campaign of violence has killed more than 100,000 people and seen 60,000 children abducted.
The violence eventually spread to Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic.
The allegations against Kony in the arrest warrant include murder, cruel treatment, enslavement, rape and attacks on the civilian population, the ICC said.
In 2021, the ICC convicted an LRA child soldier turned commander, Dominic Ongwen, of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.
He has appealed the verdict and verdict, arguing that he was scarred by his own history and still believed he was “possessed” by Kony’s ghost.
The ICC was founded in 2002 to bring perpetrators of the world’s worst crimes to justice, but was criticized for choosing many of its cases from African countries.