Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim A.A. Khan KC, announcing his decision to conclude the investigation phase in the Situation in Uganda
On 29 July 2004, following a referral from the Government of Uganda, my Office opened an investigation concerning the Situation in Uganda in relation to alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court committed between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005.
Since the opening of this investigation, the Office has carried out its work in an independent, impartial and objective manner, in partnership with relevant national authorities, affected communities and victims, and civil society organisations. As a result of this work, the Office sought on 6 May 2005, warrants of arrest against five suspects, namely Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo, Vincent Otti, Dominic Ongwen and Joseph Kony, who were among the highest commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (“LRA”). The LRA is an armed group which committed 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 Office’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.
The tangible outcomes of the Dominic Ongwen case were a product of our collective efforts, together with survivors and our civil society partners, to deliver justice for the victims of these crimes, including countless women and children. This case also evidences the continued commitment of my Office to prioritise the prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against children.
Currently, Mr Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, remains at large. He is the only remaining suspect in the Situation in Uganda. 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. 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.
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. 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. The competent authorities of the Republic of Uganda have been notified of the decision.
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.
The need for situational planning and the adoption of accompanying completion strategies also reflects a growing, legitimate expectation that the Court explore ways and means to meaningfully sustain its work across multiple Situations within finite means. This imperative was also reflected in the Independent Expert Review process, commissioned by the Assembly of States Parties.
The closure of the investigation in the Situation in Uganda does not mean that the activities of the Office in this situation are over. My Office will now concentrate its efforts in ensuring successful prosecution of Joseph Kony. Concerted efforts with ICC Registry and relevant partners will continue to be devoted to secure his arrest.
The work ahead of all of us as accountability actors requires the long-term engagement of national, regional and international actors, civil society organisations and others. Reflecting this, and as part of this decision, my Office will 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.
I wish to conclude by extending my sincere appreciation to all stakeholders, whether civil society, international and regional organisations or national authorities, for their long-standing, and ongoing partnership. As we move towards a new phase in relation to the Situation in Uganda, we remain committed to deepening our work together in pursuit of accountability.