A hearing to confirm charges against notorious Lord’s Resistance Army rebel Dominic Ongwen should be held in Uganda, the International Criminal Court said on Thursday, as it dropped the case against a second LRA leader.
“The chamber considers that it would be desirable and in the interest of justice to hold the confirmation of charges hearing in Uganda,” the ICC judges said in a statement.
The case should be heard “closest to the location of the alleged crimes,” if possible the northern town of Gulu, or the capital Kampala.
Ongwen, around 40, a former child soldier-turned-warlord, faced the ICC judges earlier this year for the first time on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He was handed over to the Netherlands-based court in January following his surprise surrender to US forces, who are helping Uganda track down LRA rebels.
Led by its charismatic leader Joseph Kony, the LRA has waged a campaign of terror for the past three decades across central Africa.
The group is accused of killing more than 100,000 people and abducting 60,000 children in a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda that started in 1987.
A hearing to decide whether Ongwen should face trial on four war crimes counts and three counts of crimes against humanity has been scheduled for January 21.
The ICC’s presidency will now consult Uganda to make a final decision, the statement said.
Meanwhile, the ICC also announced it has dropped the case against Ongwen’s fellow LRA leader Okot Odhiambo, after receiving confirmation he had been killed by Ugandan forces in October 2013.
The ICC “terminated proceedings… against alleged LRA deputy commander Okot Odhiambo following forensic confirmation of his passing,” the ICC said in a separate statement.
Kampala in February said it believed Odhiambo was killed in clashes with the Ugandan army in late 2013.
“The chamber was informed that the Ugandan authorities have subsequently issued a death certificate, certifying that Okot Odhiambo died on October 27, 2013,” in the Central African Republic.
Kony is still on the run, and so is fellow commander Vincent Otti, but unofficial reports say Otti may also have died.