Former rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) commander, Dominic Ongwen is yet to notify the International Criminal Court (ICC) of his preferred country to start serving his 25-year jail sentence.
Dahirou Sant-Anna, international cooperation adviser in the office of the prosecutor of the ICC revealed this while addressing journalists at Hotel Africana in Kampala on Friday. Dahirou explained that the presidency is one of the four organs of the ICC that makes the decision on the location where the convicted person would go. Before making the decision, the presidency would consider a request submitted by the convict of his or her country of choice.
Further, Dahirou told journalists that representatives of the victims and the prosecution team would also be able to provide their submissions on how to enforce the sentence which is done through willing state parties that have signed agreements with the ICC.
"What happens is that the court has signed some agreements with states for the enforcement of sentences persons convicted. What the presidency will be doing is, to go to those states to request if they are willing to have Dominic Ongwen on [their] territory provided that Dominic Ongwen has selected one of them. So it may be that Dominic Ongwen does not want to go to any of those states and prefers to come to Uganda. In such a case, the presidency will enter into some sort of agreement with Dominic Ongwen to determine where he will be serving his sentence," he said.
There are 123 possible country destinations including Uganda which are state parties to the Rome Statute that established the ICC on July 1, 2002, following a diplomatic conference held in Rome, Italy on 17 July 1998. They include; Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chad, Denmark, Germany, Ghana, DRC, Ireland, Liberia, Nigeria, Korea, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, Venezuela and Tanzania among others.
Ongwen was sentenced to 25 years in jail on May 6, 2021, by the ICC’s trial chamber IX after being convicted on 61 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The crimes were committed in northern Uganda between July 1, 2022, and December 31, 2005.
Among the war crimes and crimes against humanity comprised murder and attempted murder; rape; sexual slavery; forced marriage; torture; enslavement; conscription and use of children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities; pillaging; destruction of property and persecution, among others.
Following the sentence, Ongwen’s defence lawyers led by Krispus Ayena Odongo raised a total of 90 grounds of appeal against the conviction and 11 grounds against the sentencing. But the Appeals Chamber on December 15 last year confirmed the decisions of trial chamber IX on Ongwen's guilt and sentence.
Notably, on November 24, 2022, ICC prosecutor Karim Asad Ahmad Khan filed a request before the pre-trial chamber II of the Court seeking authorization to hold a hearing on the confirmation of charges against Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA in his absence.
According to Dahirou, judges of the pre-trial chamber are yet to pronounce themselves on the matter. Once the judges authorize the process, the court will appoint a legal counsel that will represent Kony during the hearing of confirmation of the charges.
Hearing of confirmation of charges is anticipated to be a breaking ground for a renewed hunt for fugitive Kony, mobilize more resources and rally more concerted effort by state parties to apprehend Kony, on who the US government has levied a Shs 18 billion bounty on his head to face justice.
"A warrant of arrest was issued against Joseph Kony back in 2005 and that warrant referred to 33 charges for crimes that he committed not in Uganda. The prosecutor found it necessary and appropriate to request a hearing so as to provide for justice to the victims but also to help to actually mobilise important resources to track Joseph Kony and to bring him before the court," added Dahirou.
Kony, whose whereabouts still remain a mystery is expected to face even more charges. The ICC issued an arrest warrant against him in 2005 alongside four others including; Ongwen, Okot Odhiambo, Raska Lukwiya, and Vincent Otti.
Charges against Odhiambo and Lukwiya have since been dropped after they were killed and their DNA confirmed. However, Otti’s arrest warrant still stands as his purported death is yet to be confirmed by the court.