Ongwen Defense Challenges Credibility of Witness

The defense of Dominic Ongwen challenged the credibility of a witness testifying at the International Criminal Court (ICC) when they questioned whether his testimony was in exchange for not being prosecuted.

Krispus Ayena Odongo asked Witness P-016 on January 26 whether there was such a deal during one of the few times when the lawyer and witness spoke in open court. The majority of the day’s hearing took place in private session because most of Odongo’s questions touched on areas that could reveal the identity of the witness. He is testifying under in-court protective measures to retain his anonymity.

Witness P-016, a former radio operator with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), is testifying in the trial of Ongwen, who the prosecution say was at one time a battalion commander then brigade commander in the LRA.

Ongwen faces 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role as a commander in the LRA. He is accused of having coordinated or participated in attacks between 2003 and 2004 on the Pajule, Odek, Abok, and Lukodi camps for people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda. He is also accused of having forcibly married seven women when they were girls and committed sexual crimes against them.

One line of questioning Odongo pursued on Thursday was whether Witness P-016 was testifying at the ICC because the Office of the Prosecutor had told him they have no intention of prosecuting him because he was not high up enough in the hierarchy of the LRA.

“So would it be fair to say that you only agreed to come to testify because you were given reassurances that you will not be prosecuted?” Odongo asked.

“It’s difficult to respond to that question, but my response is right now, even at this stage, I do not know if I am going to be prosecuted,” replied Witness P-016.

The witness added that the Ugandan government had granted him amnesty through its Amnesty Commission after he left the LRA. However, the witness was unsure whether the amnesty certificate applied to future prosecutions.

“Do I have the right to refuse to come to court?” asked the witness.

Earlier Odongo asked him about a number of men in the LRA, their roles in the group, and the ranks they held. He also asked Witness P-016 about which of the men participated in the attack on the Lukodi camp.

Thursday’s hearing concluded at the lunch break. Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said that was the end of the testimony of Witness P-016, and a new witness will testify on Friday.