The International Bar Association (IBA) today called on the Ugandan Government to act decisively to enforce the outstanding arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Joseph Kony and the other indicted leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. The IBA further encouraged the UN Security Council (UNSC), States Parties and the entire international community to put pressure on the Ugandan Government to enforce the outstanding arrest warrants and comply with its obligation to cooperate with the Court. In addition, the IBA strongly urged the Sudanese and all other governments of adjoining countries to refrain from providing safe haven to Joseph Kony and the LRA.
The IBA’s call comes in the wake of the latest media reports that Joseph Kony had again delayed the final signing of the historic Juba peace agreement due to his continuing fear that he may be surrendered to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. This latest failure to sign is viewed by some as a last-ditch attempt to force President Museveni to categorically request that the ICC withdraw the arrest warrants or risk jeopardising the entire peace deal. Furthermore, there are unconfirmed allegations that Okot Odhiambo, one of the LRA leaders indicted by the Court has been killed, fuelling suggestions that the entire peace process is likely to be derailed.
In this regard, Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director commented: ‘The victims of the egregious atrocity perpetrated against innocent civilians in Northern Uganda can no longer await the effluxion of time before justice is done. Peace agreement or not, the warrants issued by the ICC must be respected and enforced by the Government of Uganda. The priority of President Museveni must now be accountability on behalf of the victims. The UNSC, States Parties and the entire international community should strongly encourage the Ugandan Government to act decisively in enforcing the outstanding arrest warrants against Joseph Kony and the top LRA leaders.’
In an attempt to finally seal the long awaited peace deal, the Ugandan Government had included in the latest annexure to the Peace Agreement, a proposal for the setting up of a Special Division of the Ugandan High Court for the trial of war crimes and crimes against humanity. President Museveni had been at pains to convince members of the international community that the creation of this Special Division to try serious crimes together with the use of the traditional justice mechanisms were sufficient to demonstrate that Uganda now had the capacity to try Joseph Kony and the LRA leaders and would no longer require ICC intervention. However, although the annex has substantial provisions on trials, provisions to ensure adherence to international fair trial standards and adequate penalties are lacking. In March 2008, the Judges of Pre-Trial Chamber II to which the cases of Kony and the other LRA leaders are assigned wrote to the Ugandan Government requesting detailed information regarding the implications of the annexure to the agreement on the execution of the arrest warrants issued by the Court.
Richard Goldstone, Co-Chair of the IBA Human Rights Institute and former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) commented: ‘While efforts by the Ugandan Government to create a Special Division of the High Court to try war crimes and crimes against humanity are laudable, there is still no credible indication that the Ugandan justice system presently has the capacity to try Joseph Kony and the other LRA leaders according to internationally acceptable standards. The absence of specific provisions in the annexure to the peace agreement which guarantee adherence to international fair trial standards and appropriate sentences without amnesties is cause for concern. The requirements of the Rome Statute for deferral to national proceedings would not be satisfied.’
Justice Goldstone further adds: ‘In those circumstances and in light of recent developments, deferral of the proceedings before the ICC is not an option that should be pursued at this time. President Museveni should instead seek rigorously to enforce the arrest warrants against Joseph Kony and the other indictees in keeping with Uganda’s obligation under the Rome Statute to cooperate with the Court.’
For further information please contact:
IBA/ICC Programme Manager
International Bar Association
The Peace Palace
Tel: +31 634 266 310.
Romana St Matthew - Daniel
International Bar Association
1 Stephen Street
London W1T 1AT
Tel: + 44 (0)20 7691 6837
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7691 6544
Notes to the Editor
Background on the Uganda situation and position of the OTP
- Uganda ratified the Rome Statute in 2002. The situation in Northern Uganda was referred to the ICC by President Museveni in 2003.
- The Presidency of the International Court assigned the situation to Pre-Trial Chamber II (PTC II)
- In July 2004, the ICC prosecutor commenced an investigation into the situation in Northern Uganda.
- In May 2005, the Prosecutor applied for warrants of arrest for crimes against humanity and war crimes in respect of five top LRA Commanders namely Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen. Otti and Lukwiya have since been killed. There are now also unconfirmed reports that Odhiambo has also been killed.
- PTC II issued sealed arrest warrants in July 2005, which were later unsealed in October 2005.
- On 19 February 2008, the Government of the Republic of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) adopted an appendix to the Agreement on Accountability and Reconciliation (hereafter, the Agreement or the Principal Agreement) which had been signed on 29 June 2007. The Appendix to the Principal Agreement sets out the modalities of the implementation regarding truth, justice and reparation for crimes committed during the 20-year conflict in Northern Uganda.
- The agreement provides for the creation of a special division of the High Court of Uganda to prosecute those individuals alleged to have committed serious crimes during the conflict in Northern Uganda.
- The Government of Uganda will establish a unit to carry out investigations and prosecutions.
- It also provides for the establishment of a body with responsibility for the inquiring into the past atrocities and to determine the truth surrounding the conflict.
- It provides for the implementation of traditional justice mechanisms, including Mato Oput and communal dispute settlement institutions which are considered a central part of the alternative justice and reconciliation framework.
- Specific provisions also call for special arrangements to facilitate protection and participation of witnesses, victims, women and children and for reparations to victims of the conflict.
- Following the signing of the appendix to the Agreement the Agreement the OTP issued a statement reiterating its commitment to pursuing the enforcement of the arrest warrants issued by the PTC.
- The OTP is convinced that the case for which warrants have been granted by the PTC remains admissible. The matter of admissibility would be a matter for the judges of the PTC who issued the arrest warrants in the first place.
The arrest warrants would only be withdrawn by the Court under the principle of complementarity if the PTC was satisfied under Article 17 that the ‘case was being investigated or prosecuted by a State which has jurisdiction over it, unless the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigations or prosecutions’. The establishment of the Special Division of the High Court to try the Crimes might be seen by the Court as willingness on the part of the referring State to investigate and prosecute the Crimes.
In March 2008, the Judges of Pre-Trial Chamber II to which the cases of Kony and the other LRA leaders are assigned wrote to the Ugandan Government requesting detailed information regarding the implications of the Annexure to the Peace Agreement on the execution of the arrest warrants.
On Friday, 11 April Joseph Kony’s lead negotiator, David Nyekorach-Matsanga resigned from his position after Kony refused to sign the final agreement of a peace deal that had been negotiated for over 22 months.
Background to the ICC Monitoring and Outreach Programme
In October 2005, the IBA started a new ICC Monitoring and Outreach Programme funded by the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation.
The IBA has a full time representative in The Hague who monitors the work and the proceedings of the ICC, focusing in particular on issues affecting the fair trial rights of the accused, the implementation of the 1998 Rome Statute, the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, and related ICC documents, in the context of relevant international standards. Input is received from legal experts and other interested parties in assessing the work and proceedings of the Court.
As the ICC does not exist in a vacuum, the Outreach component to the Programme aims to deepen understanding of the place of the ICC both within the broader landscape of international justice and within particular contexts. To this end the IBAHRI works in key countries, particularly regional leaders, in partnership with local organisations to strengthen commitment to international law. Furthermore the Outreach component disseminates information and promotes debate on the ICC through the IBA membership network, while also engaging leaders of Bar Associations and Law Societies throughout the globe to encourage a closer dialogue between their constituencies and the ICC on defence issues.
The outreach component to the IBA's ICC Programme seeks to complement the work of other NGOs and the outreach programs of the ICC. The Programme targets key stakeholders and interest groups beyond the limits of the ongoing situations subject to investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor. As outreach work should not be seen as a one-way process, the IBAHRI submits reports to the ICC on the findings and recommendations of its outreach work and provides feedback from the Court to the stakeholders involved in its field work.