Defense Lawyer Suggests Witness Was Part of a Gang of Thieves

A defense lawyer has suggested that a prosecution witness who once served as an escort to Dominic Ongwen was part of a gang that robbed people and their homes in part of northern Uganda.

Kripus Ayena Odongo asked Witness P-330 about the gang on Wednesday because the witness had previously testified that before he was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), he was captive of a gang of two men who robbed people in his village.

Witness P-330 has been testifying since last Friday in the trial of Ongwen at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ongwen is facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in attacks on four camps for internally displaced people and for allegedly forcibly marrying seven women. The charges against him include other crimes and cover the period July 1, 2002 to December 31, 2005 when he was a commander with the LRA.

On Wednesday, Odongo questioned Witness P-330 about the year he was abducted, where the gang captured him, and what they did while he was their captive. The witness said he could not remember in which year he was abducted. He said the gang took him while he was at an uncle’s home and they stole chicken and cooked the chicken while still at his uncle’s compound.

Odongo also asked the witness about discrepancies in his testimony. On Friday, he told the court that he was captive of the gang for a night, while in his application to be registered as a victim in the trial of Ongwen, he said he was held by the gang for a week. The witness told the court on Wednesday that he was held by the gang for only one night.

After other questions about the gang, Odongo then challenged Witness P-330 about his relationship with the gang.

“Mr. Witness, may I suggest to you that the fact that these people were hosted at your uncle’s home before they moved on their mission is consistent with the possibility that you were part of this group, and therefore you came to host them at home?” asked Odongo.

“I did not know these people’s plans,” replied the witness.

Earlier in the day, before the court took a break for lunch, the witness cried as Odongo pursued a similar line of questioning.

“I put it to you, with the greatest respect that it is possible that you were part of the lawless youth by the time you said you were abducted by the LRA. And that, Mr. Witness, you were not abducted, but you were captured and happily joined the LRA,” challenged Odongo.

“If you are saying I willingly joined the LRA you are actually annoying me,” replied the witness. Odongo asked a follow-up question, which Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said he was not going to allow the witness to answer. This is when victims’ lawyer Paolina Massidda alerted Judge Schmitt that the witness crying.

Later in the afternoon, Odongo moved to asking the witness about his abduction by the LRA and particularly why he was separated from other people who had been abducted on the same day.

“So you stated you were in the center of the soldiers, separate from the other abductees. Did they give you any reason why you were separated from the rest?” asked Odongo.

“No, they did not give me a reason why,” replied Witness P-330.

“Now you said you were tied when you were sent to sleep near where the leader slept. Is that correct?” Odongo asked.

“That’s correct,” said the witness.

“Were the other abductees also tied wherever they slept?” Odongo continued.

“No other civilians were tied,” the witness told the court.

“Now Mr. Witness, with the deepest respect, may I suggest that if it is true you were tied and you were separated from the rest, it is because you were known to be trained and had the propensity to escape if you were let loose?” asked Odongo.

“I do not know the reason why I was tied up,” the witness answered.

Other questions Odongo asked the witness were about his schooling and his age at the time he was abducted. Portions of Wednesday’s hearing were held in private session.

Witness P-330 will continue to testify on Thursday.