Ugandan case will stretch war crimes court’s resources


Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court will need extra funding to revive a long-dormant case against a Lord’s Resistance Army commander who was arrested in Africa last week, sources said on Thursday.

Reopening the investigation into Dominic Ongwen, a one-time child recruit who rose through the ranks of the Ugandan rebel group that has a reputation for massacres and mutilations, will increase the burden on an already stretched prosecution service.

Prosecutors are likely to need to dip in to a 7 million-euro ($8 million) contingency fund maintained by the ICC’s 122 member states, two sources familiar with the court told Reuters.

The prosecution budget for 2015 is 40 million euros ($47 million), an increase of 19 percent on 2014. The total court budget rose 7 percent to 141 million euros ($164 million).

But the Ongwen case comes as prosecution resources are already fully committed, the sources said. The case load may soon be stretched further when the Palestinian territories, recognized as a state by the ICC, join the court in April and are likely to seek investigations into conflicts with Israel.

Uganda is an outspoken critic of the ICC, accusing it of unfairly targeting Africans, but it is also keen to pursue members of the LRA, an armed group led by Joseph Kony, a former Ugandan choirboy who claimed to be guided by spirits.

Ongwen was captured in Central African Republic, where the LRA has been active, last week and is expected to be handed over to the court in The Hague in coming days.

Ongwen is believed to have surrendered himself to Muslim Seleka rebels last week, who later handed him over to U.S. forces helping in the campaign to crush the LRA.

He and Kony were indicted for crimes against humanity by the ICC in 1995 and prosecutors will now need to refresh a case that has been largely dormant since and was partly based on testimony from witnesses who have since died or disappeared.

Prosecutors are also considering expanding the investigation beyond Uganda to look at the LRA’s activities in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, the sources said.

Criticized by judges for building weak cases, prosecutors have adopted a new strategy in recent years of carrying out in-depth investigations using dedicated teams rather than rotating resources between investigations.