LRA return: Towards a new terror period?

The withdrawal of Ugandan and US troops from the search for one of the world's most wanted men, Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony, already appears to be having repercussions, as the United Nations (UN) warns of the return of a rebel group known for its brutality against children.

"The drawdown of the Counter-LRA Operation poses new challenges to Kony’s arrest as the resources and expertise from the operation will no longer be available to facilitate his surrender," Human Rights Watch (HRW) commented.

International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants were issued for Joseph Kony and four other senior Lord’s Resistance Army commanders in July 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda. The 2011 establishment of the Regional Cooperation Initiative for the elimination of the LRA (RCI-LRA) in Uganda led to multiple defections and arrests — including that of former LRA commander Dominic Ongwen, whose trial is ongoing at the ICC.

However, Kony himself remains at large and is thought to be hiding in Darfur, Sudan, or moving through the Central African Republic (CAR). Kony's charges include murder, sexual enslavement, pillaging and recruiting child soldiers.

Civil society expressed consternation at the drawdown of the counter LRA operation, citing implications for Uganda as well as neighboring countries. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, LRA splinter groups continue to terrorize local communities and were responsible for the kidnapping of 61 civilians at Garamba National Park earlier this month, where the situation is said to already be seriously deteriorating. Meanwhile, concerns over the return of the LRA have prompted women in CAR to consider fleeing their homes. The security vacuum created is said to pose similar threats to already war-torn South Sudan.

In addition, the end of the Kony search has come as a disappointment to the victims left behind.

"The reason that was given for the withdrawal does not help," Oryem Nyeko of the Ugandan Justice and Reconciliation Project explained. "Ugandan forces are reported to have made the decision to end the pursuit of the LRA because the mission in doing so was “already achieved”. This is problematic because it reinforces the message to victims of the atrocities that are alleged against Kony, as well as their communities, that accountability for the crimes that were committed during the war are not a priority."

Responding to the news, HRW called for increased cooperation between ICC States Parties in order to plug the gap left behind by the withdrawal, advance Kony's arrest and protect the civilians most affected.

Get up-to-date on the ICC's investigation in Uganda.

Read more on the still-at-large suspects of the ICC.


ICC investigations

DRC: Testifying before the ICC, Bosco Ntaganda claimed that he was "inspired" to form a fighting group in eastern DRC by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.
Kenya: Opposition leaders have accused President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy William Ruto of seeking to gain sympathy in the August elections by claiming the opposition was looking to revive ICC cases against the two.

ICC preliminary examinations

Afghanistan: The Trump administration has announced plans to send nearly 4,000 additional US forces to Afghanistan in a move that former commanders and military scholars have deemed putting "the cart before the horse."

Burundi: Despite the government's insistence to the contrary, the UN has reported that security forces and government-allied militia are continuing to torture and kill opponents.

Gabon: National authorities are reportedly investigating threats to President Ali Bongo ahead of an ICC team's planned visit to the country to examine claims of post-election violence.

Nigeria: Amnesty International has reiterated its call for an impartial investigation into allegations of human rights abuses by nine senior military commanders, claiming a military panel report to this effect was neither independent nor effective.


Campaign for Global Justice

Coalition member Physicians for Human Rights has developed a medical app aiming to help document evidence of sexual violence in the DRC and thereby obtain justice for rape victims through the prosecution of war crimes.

A Spanish court is pushing for the case against the former chief of staff of the Rwandan army to be reopened so that he may face charges of war crimes, terrorism, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The International Organization for Migration has ramped up pressure on the European Union to help the estimated 800,000 migrants stranded in Libya, hundreds of whom are being held captive, starved and beaten.

Following South Africa's compliance hearing at the ICC to explain why it did not arrest Sudanese President and ICC suspect Omar al-Bashir, Pre-Trial Chamber II has announced it is set to deliver its decision on the matter on 6 July 2017.

Get the low-down on South Africa's appearance before the ICC.


Around the world

Videos of a US-led coalition’s use of white phosphorus munitions in civilian neighborhoods in Syria has led to war crime accusations from Amnesty International.

No change appears afoot in Eritrea's human rights record, with continued reports of arbitrary arrest, detention and enforced disappearances despite the UN Special Rapporteur's call last year for an ICC examination of the situation.

Australia has agreed to a $90 million AUD lawsuit — the "largest settlement in a human rights class-action" the country has seen — following reports of sexual assault, child abuse and self-immolation at several of its refugee detention centers.

The African National Congress is reportedly still seeking to withdraw South Africa from the ICC, despite parliament revoking a similar bill in March earlier this year.

How did civil society campaign to keep South Africa an ICC member?

Which #GlobalJustice news stories caught your eye this week? Let us know in the comment box below.