International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Defense Lawyer Asks Witness Whether He is Confused About Ongwen Abducting Him

A defense lawyer questioned Witness P-200 on whether he was confused over who it was in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who abducted him and whether he also mixed up which LRA group he served in.

Abigail Bridgman, one of Dominic Ongwen’s lawyers, told the witness on Tuesday that Ongwen was not in the area he was taken from when the abduction occurred. Witness P-200 insisted Ongwen is the one who abducted him, and Ongwen was his commander while in the LRA.

Ongwen is on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). He has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that he is alleged to have committed in northern Uganda between July 2002 and December 2005. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Witness P-200 testified on Monday that he was abducted on June 24, 2003, and he escaped from the LRA on March 24, 2004.

On Tuesday, Bridgman continued cross-examining Witness P-200, whom she had begun questioning on Monday. Bridgman put several propositions to Witness P-200 about whether Ongwen was the one who abducted him and whether Ongwen was involved in the attacks the witness testified about or spoke to prosecution investigators about.

Bridgman asked him what he would say if she told him Ongwen was not in the Teso region when he was abducted and that Ongwen was in one the LRA’s sick bays. Witness P-200 responded that Ongwen is the one who abducted him.

“What if I told you that you are indeed mistaken, and the person whose group you were under is Buk Abudema?” asked Bridgman.

“I am hearing Buk Abudema for the first time here,” replied the witness.

According to the prosecution’s pre-trial brief of September 6, 2016 Buk Abudema was the brigade commander of Sinia in 2003 through the first half of 2004. During that same period, according to the pre-trial brief, Ongwen was the battalion commander of Oka, a battalion in Sinia brigade.

During the course of the day, Bridgman questioned Witness P-200 about attacks he said Ongwen took part in on a camp for internally displaced people in Barlonyo and on Luala Girls School.

Bridgman asked the witness about details he gave in his statement to prosecution investigators about an LRA attack on Barlonyo, in which the witness is said to have stated Ongwen took part in the attack.

“What would you say if I told you that it is Okot Odiambo who led the attack on Barlonyo, and Dominic Ongwen did not participate in the attack?” asked Bridgman.

“As I told you that the hierarchies of the commanders in the LRA I do not know because many commanders can go for an attack, and particular responsibilities may be given to a commander,” answered Witness P-200.

When the ICC issued an arrest warrant for individuals wanted for their alleged role in crimes committed in northern Uganda, Okot Odiambo was one of the LRA commanders named in that warrant as was Ongwen. The ICC terminated the case against Odiambo in September 2015 after determining he was dead.

Bridgman also asked Witness P-200 about an attack on Luala Girls School. He said he was part of Ongwen’s group that went to attack the school. He told the court that Ongwen did not go with all of his fighters to attack the school. The witness said he was one of the people told to remain behind, squatting, some distance from the school. He said they were near enough to hear the girls raise the alarm when they were attacked but too far to see anything.

“What would you say if I told you that it was Tabu Ley who led the attack on Luala Girls?” asked Bridgman. Previous prosecution witnesses have testified that Tabu Ley was the brigade commander of Stockree.

“You ask for my opinion? For me, I was under the command of my commander Dominic Ongwen. I do not know much about Tabu Ley’s group,” replied Witness P-200.

Bridgman then revisited her earlier line of questioning of who Witness P-200 said abducted him and which LRA group he was with.

“My question is what would you say if I suggest to you that you are completely confused about the group that abducted you and the group that you stayed with?” asked Bridgman.

“I am not,” answered the witness.

Bridgman then asked him whether he had shaped his story to fit the case against Ongwen because he is on trial at the ICC.

“As I told you, I got to know him clearly when [former LRA deputy leader Vincent] Otti called him by his name,” answered the witness. Earlier on Tuesday, Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt had asked the witness to explain how he knew he was abducted by Ongwen. Witness P-200 said he knew his abductor was Ongwen when, after the abduction, they went to Abia where Otti addressed Ongwen by name.

Close to the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Bridgman questioned the witness about his memory. Throughout his testimony on Tuesday, Witness P-200 responded to many questions saying either he did not remember or he forgot.

Bridgman asked him whether between the time he gave his statement to prosecution investigators in September 2015 and Tuesday something had happened to him, such as an accident that affected his memory.

“No,” replied Witness P-200.

“Do you have any explanation why you remember a lot of detail in 2015 while you talked with prosecution investigators that you don’t remember today even after being refreshed with your statements?” asked Bridgman.

“The reason is that by the time I gave my statement to the investigators the gap was not that far but now it has taken so many years,” answered Witness P-200.

Witness P-200 concluded his testimony on Tuesday. Judge Schmitt said Witness P-366 will start testifying on Wednesday.

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