Situation in Uganda
Situation referred to the ICC by the Government of Uganda: January 2004
ICC investigations opened: July 2004
Current focus: Alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of a conflict between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the national authorities in Uganda since 1 July 2002 (when the Rome Statute entered into force)
Current regional focus: Northern Uganda
Jurisdiction in the general situation
In June 2002, Uganda ratified the Rome Statute, and in January 2004, it referred the situation in its territory since 1 July 2002 to the ICC. The ICC therefore may exercise its jurisdiction over crimes listed in the Rome Statute committed on the territory of Uganda or by its nationals from 1 July 2002 onwards.
Context and alleged crimes
The ICC investigations in Uganda have focussed on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of an armed conflict predominantly between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the national authorities, mainly in Northern Uganda, since 1 July 2002.
Upon receiving the referral from the Ugandan Government, the Office of the Prosecutor issued a press release stating: "A key issue will be locating and arresting the LRA leadership. This will require the active cooperation of states and international institutions in supporting the efforts of the Ugandan authorities. Many of the members of the LRA are themselves victims, having been abducted and brutalised by the LRA leadership. The reintegration of these individuals into Ugandan society is key to the future stability of Northern Uganda. This will require the concerted support of the international community – Uganda and the Court cannot do this alone."
Investigations opened in July 2004, and alleged crimes in this situation include:
- war crimes, including murder; cruel treatment of civilians; intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population; pillaging; inducing rape; and forced enlistment of children; and
- crimes against humanity, including murder; enslavement; sexual enslavement; rape; and inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering.
This situation led the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber judges to issue the Court's first warrant of arrest in 2005, against top members of the LRA. All suspects remained at large for a decade, until one LRA member, Dominic Ongwen, surrendered himself in January 2015. Other top members of the LRA, Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti remain at large.
Warrants of arrest
The warrants of arrest in this case were issued under seal on 8 July 2005 and unsealed on 13 October 2005. The suspects are still at large. While case originally involved Raska Lukwiya and Okot Odhiambo, proceedings against them were terminated due to their passing.
Next steps: Until the suspects are arrested and transferred to the seat of the Court in The Hague, the case will remain in the Pre-Trial stage. The ICC does not try individuals unless they are present in the courtroom.
The trial began on 6 December 2016. The Prosecution and the Defence have completed the presentation of their evidence. The Legal Representatives of Victims also called witnesses to appear before the Chamber. On 12 December 2019, the presiding judge declared the closure of the submission of evidence in the case. The closing briefs were filed on 24 February 2020. The closing statements took place from 10 to 12 March 2020. On 4 February 2021, Trial Chamber IX found Dominic Ongwen guilty for a total of 61 crimes comprising crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed in Northern Uganda between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005. On 6 May 2021, Trial Chamber IX sentenced Dominic Ongwen to 25 years of imprisonment. The period of his detention between 4 January 2015 and 6 May 2021 will be deducted from the total time of imprisonment imposed on him.
Next steps: If the sentencing judgment becomes final, the ICC Presidency shall designate a State of enforcement for the sentence. In the meantime, Mr Ongwen will remain in the ICC detention centre.
Furthermore, a phase dedicated to the reparations to victims is ongoing. On 6 May 2021, the Chamber issued an order for submissions on reparations.
On 21 July and 26 August 2021, the Defence filed its appeal briefs against the conviction and the sentence, respectively. The Appeals Chamber held a hearing on 14 - 18 February 2022 to hear submissions and observations by the parties and participants on these appeals. The Chamber will make a decision in due course.