International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

How the Trial of Dominic Ongwen Has Shaped Attitudes Toward International Criminal Justice in Uganda

Uganda is currently the focus of two international criminal trials: that of Thomas Kwoyelo before the International Crimes Division (ICD) in Uganda, and Dominic Ongwen before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands. Both Kwoyelo and Ongwen are charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda while in the service of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This has inevitably stirred debate in Uganda regarding which of the two courts is more effective, and shaped attitudes towards international criminal justice in the country.

Ongwen is currently standing trial before the ICC in The Hague. His trial began on December 6, 2016. He is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in … Continue Reading

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Defense Lawyer Questions Officer About His Defection Offer to Ongwen

A defense lawyer for Dominic Ongwen questioned whether a senior Ugandan military officer could follow through on a defection offer he made to Ongwen, given that the officer held a lower rank than Ongwen and that, at the time, an outstanding warrant for Ongwen’s arrest had been issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Abigail Bridgman, a defense attorney representing Ongwen, raised the issue on Tuesday following Monday’s testimony by Colonel Irumba Tingira Omero, who stated that he tried to get Ongwen to defect from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) when he met him in September 2006.

At the time of the meeting, Tingira held the rank of captain in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces. Ongwen was commander of the Sinia Brigade … Continue Reading

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Ugandan Intelligence Officer Talks of Joking With and Irritating Ongwen

A senior Ugandan military intelligence officer described to the International Criminal Court (ICC) how he joked with Dominic Ongwen, a former rebel commander, during a ceasefire between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government in 2006.

Colonel Irumba Tingira Omero told the court on Monday that when the conversation turned to whether Ongwen would allow the younger rebel fighters under his command to leave the LRA, Ongwen became irritated.

Tingira, the name by which the intelligence officer was referred to in court, said his conversation with Ongwen took place in September 2006. He spoke with Ongwen in one of the places the Ugandan army had designated for safe passage for LRA fighters on their way to assembly points in Southern … Continue Reading

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Judges to Conduct Another Review on Reducing Lubanga’s ICC Sentence

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have initiated a second review on the possible reduction of the prison sentence of Thomas Lubanga, the first person to be tried and convicted by the court.

The upcoming review follows an initial review conducted in 2015, when judges declined to reduce the sentence, which could have resulted in an early release for the former Congolese rebel leader. At the time, the judges determined that there were no factors in favor of Lubanga’s release, having found no evidence that he had genuinely dissociated from his crimes. Furthermore, the judges ruled that there was no indication of any significant action taken by Lubanga for the benefit of victims of his crimes.

Lubanga was convicted in Mach … Continue Reading

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Ugandan Civil Society Questions an ICC Prosecution Delegation on the Ongwen Trial

As the trial of Dominic Ongwen before the International Criminal Court (ICC) went into summer recess, representatives of the Court’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) responded to questions put by civil society in northern Uganda.

On August 1, 2017, a delegation from the OTP met with over 40 representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Gulu, northern Uganda. The objective was to provide updates on developments since the commencement of the Ongwen trial on December 6, 2016 and respond to questions from the community. The meeting was public and this article reflects on the questions raised by the CSO representatives and how the OTP officials responded to them.

Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly … Continue Reading

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Has Guatemala Satisfied the Inter-American Court’s Judgment in the Molina Theissen Case?

During the July 25 hearing in the Molina Theissen case, the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGN) requested that the Court admit as evidence the 2004 judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as well as the Court’s resolution on the supervision of the judgment. According to the PGN, which represents the interests of the state of Guatemala and is a separate institution from the Attorney General’s Office, the Court’s resolution establishes that Guatemala has fully complied with the terms of the 2004 judgment.

IJ Monitor discussed this with Marcela Martino, a lawyer for the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), which has represented the Molina Theissen family before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. According to Martino, “It is absolutely … Continue Reading

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Passing Judgment on an ICC Thriller: a Podcast Review

Scott Turow is one of America’s best-known authors of legal thrillers, set—until now—in fictional Kindle County, located somewhere in the Midwest. But in his latest book, Testimony, Turow travels to The Hague and to Bosnia, to tell the story of a middle-aged American lawyer who takes up a chance to serve as a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.

But how does his fictional account of the workings of the ICC, seen through the eyes of hero Bill ten Boom, stack up with the real thing?

A special edition of the Open Society Foundations’ monthly Talking Justice podcast, presents a discussion of Testimony, between James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, and Binaifer Nowrojee, regional dierctor of the … Continue Reading

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Molina Theissen Case Ready to Go to Court

The final phase of the preliminary hearings in the Molina Theissen case concluded this past week, opening the path to the criminal prosecution of five former senior military officials charged with the enforced disappearance of 14-year-old Marco Antonio Molina Theissen and the illegal detention, torture, and rape of his sister Emma. After several delays, the pretrial judge in the case, Víctor Herrera Ríos, finalized the review of evidence presented by the plaintiffs and the defendants on June 25.

The five officials, all retired, include two heavily decorated generals who were believed to be untouchable: Benedicto Lucas García, former Army chief of staff, and Manuel Callejas y Callejas, former head of military intelligence and presumed leader of the Cofradía organized crime syndicate. The other three … Continue Reading

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Senior Prosecutor Says Kenya Unwilling to Prosecute Two Kenyans Wanted by ICC

A senior prosecutor told Kenya’s High Court that the country is unwilling to prosecute two Kenyans wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in relation to bribery allegations against them.

Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Victor Mule told the court on Thursday that in such a situation the ICC can exercise its jurisdiction as a court of last resort. He argued this was possible because the ICC’s founding law, the Rome Statute, has force of law in Kenya.

Mule said this during submissions before Judge Luka Kimaru on an application the Director of Public Prosecutions made to execute an arrest warrant for Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett. The ICC issued an arrest warrant for them in March 2015 alleging they have bribed … Continue Reading

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Lawyer Argues Kenyans Wanted by the ICC Cannot Ask for Evidence before They Have Been Charged

A lawyer who represented victims in one of the Kenya cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC) told the Kenyan High Court that individuals wanted by the ICC for alleged bribery cannot demand to see the evidence against them before they have been charged.

Wilfred Nderitu told the court on Wednesday that Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett, against whom the ICC has issued arrest warrants, cannot claim the fair trial rights in Kenya’s Constitution because neither of them is an accused person.

“My submission is that that is not applicable at all. (Article) 50 (2) (of Kenya’s Constitution) relates to the rights of an accused person. Neither the first respondent (Paul Gicheru) nor the second respondent (Philip Kipkoech Bett) is an accused person,” … Continue Reading

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