International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Witness Testifies about Forced Marriage and Rape by LRA Commander

A witness described to judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) some of the sexual violence she said she suffered after she was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) about 13 years ago. Between November 8th and 9th, Witness P-396 testified in the ICC’s trial of Dominic Ongwen about her time as a “wife” in the LRA.

Witness P-396 told the court that Dominic Ongwen, who is on trial at the ICC, forced her to become a “wife” to an LRA commander. She said that the commander raped her that same night.

Abigail Bridgman, one of Ongwen’s lawyers, doubted Witness P-396 could have met Ongwen because during the time she was in the LRA, Ongwen was not in the Lango area … Continue Reading

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Witness Recounts His Alleged Torture by Ugandan Army After He Escaped the LRA

A survivor of a Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) attack on the Pajule camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in Uganda described to the International Criminal Court (ICC) how Ugandan government soldiers allegedly tortured him for up to three weeks.

Dick Okot testified that he was abducted by the LRA during its attack on the Pajule camp 14 years ago. He later escaped the LRA, he said. He told the court that after he escaped, he spent as many as six weeks with different units of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF). Some of those units tortured him, the witness claimed.

He testified about his experiences with the LRA and UPDF during the ICC trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander. Ongwen … Continue Reading

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Les juges refusent une nouvelle fois de diminuer la peine de M. Lubanga prononcée devant la CPI

Les juges de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI) ont une nouvelle fois refusé de diminuer la peine prononcée à l’encontre de l’ancien chef rebelle congolais Thomas Lubanga qui purge actuellement une peine de prison de 14 ans. M. Lubanga, la première personne à être jugée par la Cour, a été condamnée en 2012 pour l’utilisation d’enfants soldats dans un conflit armé dans l’est de la République démocratique du Congo (RDC).

Plus tôt dans le mois, les juges Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, Howard Morrison et Piotr Hofmański avaient décidé que depuis l’examen initial de la peine il y a deux ans, il n’y avait pas eu de modification significative des circonstances permettant de justifier une libération anticipée de M. Lubanga.

De plus, les juges ont déclaré … Continue Reading

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Judges Again Decline to Reduce Lubanga’s ICC Sentence

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have once again declined to reduce the sentence for former Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga, who is currently serving a 14-year prison term. Lubanga, the first person to be tried by the court, was convicted in 2012 over the use of child soldiers in an armed conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Earlier this month, Judges Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, Howard Morrison, and Piotr Hofmański determined that since the initial review of the sentence two years ago, there had been no significant change in circumstances to warrant Lubanga’s early release.

Furthermore, the judges stated that they saw no reason to schedule a further review of Lubanga’s sentence, given that it expires on March 15, 2020. … Continue Reading

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Witness Says He Heard LRA Leader Joseph Kony Wanted to Attack Pajule, Not Odek

Witness P-275, a survivor of an attack on the Odek camp for internally displaced people 13 years ago, testified before the International Criminal Court last week. Lawyers challenged the witness about his recollection of when he escaped the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and what he knew about the Odek attack.

Witness P-275 told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that he never saw Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander on trial at the ICC, during the time he was an abductee of the LRA. The witness said he was abducted when the LRA attacked Odek in April 2004.

Charles Taku, a lawyer representing Ongwen, doubted Witness P-275 when he told the court he was with the LRA for up to two and a … Continue Reading

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Legislator Proposes Blanket Amnesty for Grave Human Rights Violations in Guatemala

A bill was presented in the Guatemalan congress last week that would effectively establish a blanket amnesty for military officials accused of international crimes related to the internal armed conflict, in which an estimated 200,000 lives were lost. The bill seeks to alter the Law of National Reconciliation, which the Guatemalan congress passed in December 1996 in the context of the United Nations-brokered peace accords. That law provides for amnesty for political crimes, but not for international crimes such as genocide, torture, and other crimes against humanity.

The Proposed Legislation

On November 6, 2017, Congressman Fernando Linares Beltranena presented a proposal to reform Decree No. 145-1996, known as the Law of National Reconciliation. This law provides for amnesty for political crimes, but … Continue Reading

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Witness Says Ugandan Government Soldiers Feared Ongwen

A former fighter with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who served under Dominic Ongwen told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that Ugandan army soldiers feared Ongwen, preferring to ambush Ongwen’s group rather than confront them in battle.

On November 2, Witness P-231 testified that he was a member of the LRA’s Oka battalion when Ongwen was the battalion commander.

He described Ongwen as “very knowledgeable” in military matters, which he said was one of the reasons government soldiers often did not pursue Ongwen’s unit after they had attacked a place.

“For that matter, government soldiers rarely followed us. If they want[ed] to fight us they would ambush us,” said Witness P-231.

Ongwen is on trial for his alleged role in attacks on the Abok, … Continue Reading

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ICC Judges Authorize Investigation Into Crimes in Burundi

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have authorized Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to initiate investigations into crimes committed in the central African country of Burundi over the last two and a half years.

Pre-Trial Chamber III first issued the authorization under seal on October 25. It was unveiled in a public redacted version yesterday, less than two weeks after Burundi’s withdrawal from the ICC on October 27. Judges determined that the court has jurisdiction over the crimes allegedly committed in that country while Burundi was a State Party, from December 1, 2004 through October 26, 2017.

Burundi fell into turmoil in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government quelled a coup attempt that followed his decision to stand for a third term … Continue Reading

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Gauging Public Interest (Part Three): Community Members’ Suggestions for Increasing Interest in Dominic Ongwen’s ICC Trial

This article explores suggestions from community members in northern Uganda regarding what needs to be done to increase public interest in the trial of Dominic Ongwen. The article follows two previous International Justice Monitor posts that present results from a rapid assessment conducted in September 2017 involving 50 community members and civil society representatives in northern Uganda. The assessment aimed to measure the level of public interest in following the trial of Dominic Ongwen, and established that 56% of the respondents were following the trial, while 44% said they were not following the trial. The third and last post in the series examines views from the participants on how public interest in following the trial can be enhanced.

Ongwen, a former commander … Continue Reading

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Witness Names Senior LRA Commanders Who Planned and Organized Pajule Attack

A witness described to the International Criminal Court (ICC) some of the habits of the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony, as well as his reasons for fighting a rebellion in northern Uganda.

Witness P-138 told the court that Kony remained in Sudan while most of his senior officers and fighters were in Uganda. However, Kony never stayed in one place in Sudan, according to the witness. The witness also testified that Kony wanted to become Uganda’s president and that Kony would claim he was not fighting for the Acholi, Kony’s ethnic group.

The witness, who testified between October 30 and November 1, was with the LRA for about eight years. During that time he served under Vincent Otti, … Continue Reading