On Tuesday, a lawyer defending Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court (ICC) cast doubt on whether a former fighter with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) saw or knew Ongwen, as the former fighter had testified a day earlier.
Thomas Obhof also cast doubt on what Witness P-250 knew about the LRA brigade he had testified he belonged to while he was with the rebel group. Witness P-250 insisted that he knew Ongwen, but he conceded there were details about the brigade he belonged to that he did not know.
Ongwen is on trial facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has been charged with attacking camps for internally displaced people (IDP), committing sex crimes, and conscripting child soldiers between July 2002 and December 2005. Ongwen has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Obhof showed Witness P-250 a photo of a group of men in uniform that Obhof said was taken in the second half of 2006. In the photo some of the men are seated and others standing. Obhof asked the witness to identify anyone he recognized. The witness identified Ongwen among others.
Obhof then asked the witness to describe how Ongwen looked. Witness P-250 said Ongwen looked average, “not very fat.” Obhof followed up and asked the witness why in 2015 when speaking to prosecution investigators he had described Ongwen as “fat.”
“At the time of abduction, I saw him as a new person,” answered the witness. He added that later on he came to understand that a fat person is “really huge.”
“Is it not true Mr. Witness that until yesterday [Monday] you had not actually seen Mr. Ongwen?” asked Obhof. He also suggested that the witness could have seen Ongwen on television when he first appeared at the ICC in 2015.
“I have known Ongwen for a long time. I did not only see him in video clips. I stayed with him together … It was not my first time to see him in video clips,” replied Witness P-250.
Some time later Obhof returned to this line of questioning and asked Witness P-250 to describe Ongwen’s height, hairstyle, and the speed at which he ran. The witness said the Ongwen he saw in court was the same as the one he saw while in the LRA. He said Ongwen had dreadlocks when he first saw him and described Ongwen as “invincible” when answering the question about how fast Ongwen ran.
“Did Mr. Ongwen walk with a limp?” asked Obhof.
“At the time I left him he was not walking with a limp,” answered the witness.
“So, you would disagree with me that Mr. Ongwen has walked with a limp since he was shot in Acet in 1996?” asked Obhof.
“Well, like I said yesterday, if you are in the bush, first of all, you are not allowed to move near the commanders, the senior commanders … If he was shot on the leg it is possible then. While I was in the bush I did not keenly see that,” answered Witness P-250.
Obhof then asked the witness about his testimony on Monday that Ongwen took charge of the brigade the witness belonged to following the death of Tabu Ley, the commander of Stockree brigade. Obhof asked him what he had to say if informed that following Tabu Ley’s death, LRA leader Joseph Kony ordered Buk Abudema to take charge of Stockree. The witness said he was not aware of that, and he did not know Buk Abudema.
“Mr. Witness, during the time you were in the LRA, I put it to you that Mr. Ongwen was never with Stockree. Would you agree with that or would you disagree with that?” asked Obhof towards the end of the hearing.
“I don’t agree,” answered Witness P-250.
When he concluded cross-examining Witness P-250, Obhof made an application to Trial Chamber IX. The details of the application were not made public because the judges heard it in private session, but Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt gave their ruling in public. He said the judges decided that they did not need “supplemental information” about Witness P-250, and they had heard his testimony and had documents already submitted to the court that they would be referring to.
Judge Schmitt said Witness P-145 would begin testifying on Wednesday.