On Thursday, 10 September 2015, Pre-trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) terminated proceedings against the alleged Deputy Army Commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Okot Odhiambo following the forensic confirmation of his passing.
Pre-trial Chamber II’s decision follows the reception of information and material provided by the Prosecutor, which establishes that a corpse exhumed by the Ugandan authorities in March 2015 was identified, through DNA testing, as that of Okot Odhiambo.
The Chamber was informed that the Ugandan authorities have subsequently issued a death certificate, certifying that Okot Odhiambo died on 27 October 2013, 50 kilometres northeast of Djemah, Central African Republic.
Mr Odhiambo’s case was joined to the case of other LRA commanders Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti who are still at large.
While the case originally involved an additional suspect, Raska Lukwiya, proceedings against him were terminated due to his passing.
On 27 July 2015, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of ICC requested the Pre-Trial Chamber to withdraw and render without effect the warrant of arrest issued against Odhiambo following confirmation of his death.
ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in a statement yesterday, that the ICC judges withdrew the warrant of arrest against Mr Odhiambo, one of the top four commanders of the LRA rebel group who have allegedly terrorised Northern Uganda and the Great Lakes region for more than a quarter of a century.
According to the OTP investigation, the LRA Commanders including Odhiambo allegedly committed unimaginable crimes; reportedly killing tens of thousands and displacing millions of people.
The ICC issued warrants of arrest against the LRA Commanders including Okot Odhiambo in 2005 for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Uganda, including murder, enslavement, enlisting of children, intentionally directing attacks against civilians and pillaging.
Okot Odhiambo was reportedly killed on 14 February 2014 in Central African Republic during a battle between the LRA and the Ugandan army.
From August 2014, the OTP worked with various stakeholders including the Ugandan government in order to verify reports of Odhiambo’s death.
On 20 March 2015, a body was exhumed from the alleged burial site of Odhiambo and transported to Kampala.
In June 2015, following rigorous DNA tests, the OTP was able to conclusively confirm that the body that was exhumed was that of Okot Odhiambo.
Okot Odhiambo is the second LRA commander wanted by the Court who has been officially confirmed dead.
The first was Raska Lukwiya, another LRA commander, whose death in 2006 was also confirmed following DNA tests. Vincent Otti, the second-in-command of the LRA at the time the ICC issued a warrant of arrest against him in 2005 for crimes against humanity and war crimes, was reportedly executed on orders from Joseph Kony in 2007.
The OTP continues to gather information in its efforts to independently verify the reports of Vincent Otti’s death.
Okot Odhiambo’s death means he has evaded justice at the ICC.
However, the confirmation of charges against Dominic Ongwen, another high ranking commander of the LRA is due to start in January 2016.
Joseph Kony, the LRA commander-in-Chief is the only LRA commander sought by the ICC and still at large.
“He must also be brought to justice. The Office urges all States to renew and refocus efforts to secure the arrest of Joseph Kony as well as all other ICC fugitives in other situations,” Bensouda said.
“The victims of their crimes have waited far too long and deserve to see justice done.”
As the alleged Brigade Commander of Trinkle and Stockree Brigades of the LRA, Mr Odhiambo was allegedly criminally responsible on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility for two counts of crimes against humanity (murder; and enslavement) and eight counts of war crimes (murder; intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population; pillaging; and forced enlisting of children).
On 6 February 2015, Pre-Trial Chamber II severed the proceedings against Dominic Ongwen from the Kony et al. case following his surrender to the ICC custody on 16 January 2015.