In November 2022, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan requested the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to confirm charges against Joseph Kony, the rebel leader, in absentia. This move occurred 18 years after the ICC failed to execute a 2005 arrest warrant against Kony, raising questions about the timing and selection of the candidate.
One notable concern is the timing of the Prosecutor’s request and the choice of Kony as the focus. This decision has prompted inquiries into why former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, another ICC indictee, was not considered, given their similar elusive nature.
Moreover, it remains unclear whether the perspectives of the victims of Kony’s crimes and the communities in Uganda were adequately taken into account. To ensure justice, victims’ needs should be at the forefront of trial decisions, alongside Uganda’s own efforts for accountability and reparations.
The ICC’s involvement in northern Uganda dates back to December 2003 when it was referred to investigate the conflict between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). However, there have been concerns about the ICC’s approach, with some viewing it as a pursuit of justice at the expense of reconciliation within communities.
While a trial in absentia may bring Kony and the ICC into the spotlight, there are questions about what will happen to the nearly 2000 victims who participated in prior ICC investigations, especially those who have been silently suffering. Many of these victims have grown into adulthood and continue to carry the trauma of their past experiences.
Efforts to address these deep-seated issues should include resources for mental health and trans-generational trauma interventions, complementing traditional justice mechanisms. The ICC’s current focus on Kony’s arrest appears to overshadow these critical aspects of healing and reconciliation.
The ICC’s request for confirmation of charges must align with Uganda’s national transitional justice frameworks and not disrupt ongoing efforts for reconciliation within the country. The Ugandan government’s commitment to national dialogue and transitional justice processes should not be undermined by the ICC’s actions.