Home News ICC Rules to Proceed with Joseph Kony Trial in Absentia

ICC Rules to Proceed with Joseph Kony Trial in Absentia

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) has ruled that it will commence the hearing of confirmation of charges against fugitive Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel leader Joseph Kony in absentia.

The judges have set October 15 this year as the date for the commencement of the confirmation of charges hearing against Kony in his absence if he does not appear. He faces 33 counts of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed between July 1, 2002, and December 31, 2005, in northern Uganda.

The ruling comes more than a year after ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan petitioned Trial Chamber IX seeking to revive the case against Joseph Kony, 18 years after an arrest warrant was issued against him.

“In light of the foregoing and given that this would be the first time the Court would hold confirmation of charges hearing in absentia, the Chamber considers commencing the confirmation of charges hearing on October 15, 2024, appropriate,” The decision reads in part.

The decision was jointly delivered by Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala, Presiding Judge Tomoko Akane, and Judge Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godínez. The judges had previously ruled on November 23, 2023, that Kony qualifies as a person who cannot be found within the meaning of Article 61(2)(b) of the Rome Statute.

This is the first time the court has decided to hear the charges against a suspect accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in absentia at The Hague-based World Court. The court also noted that it had taken all reasonable steps to inform Kony of the charges against him as set out in the Document Containing the Charges, within the meaning of the Statute.

The court has since instructed the Registry to initiate notification efforts and outreach activities regarding the date for the commencement of the confirmation of charges and also to commence the process of selecting counsel to represent the rights and interests of Kony.

The judges have also instructed the Prosecution to provide the chamber, within four weeks, with, among other things, the category of documentary evidence and the overall number of written pieces of evidence they intend to rely upon, the estimated overall amount of exculpatory evidence, the number of witnesses to testify, and the language to be used.

About the Rome Statute:

The Rome Statute allows for the confirmation of charges proceedings at the Pre-Trial stage in the absence of the suspect. If the charges are confirmed, the case can only proceed to trial if the accused is present before the Trial Chamber.

The existence of confirmation proceedings in absentia would serve to expedite the case against a suspect who cannot be found; however, as previously held by the same Chamber, this proceeding is only applicable in exceptional circumstances.

About Joseph Kony:

Kony is currently believed to be hiding in the jungles of the Central African Republic, where he waged a bloody rebellion campaign against Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in 1986, lasting for about two decades. According to United Nations (UN) statistics, an estimated 100,000 people were reportedly killed in the conflict.

In 2005, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Kony, the leader of the notorious LRA rebels, along with four other senior LRA commanders.

Kony is suspected of committing 12 counts of crimes against humanity (murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement, rape, inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering) and 21 counts of war crimes (murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, inducing rape, and forced enlistment of children) allegedly committed in northern Uganda.

Those accused along with Kony included Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo, and Vincent Otti, whose warrants have since been dropped by the ICC following confirmation of their death. Meanwhile, Dominic Ongwen, the former Commander of the Sinia Brigade, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in jail in 2021 for a total of 61 crimes comprising crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In a record compensation decision, the ICC last week awarded €52,429,000 (approximately 222 billion shillings) in compensation to about 49,000 victims of Ongwen’s atrocities in Northern Uganda.