A former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighter, who testified that he participated in an attack on the Pajule camp for internally displaced people (IDP) almost 16 years ago, told the International Criminal Court (ICC) he did not see Dominic Ongwen before or after that attack.
Charles Lokwiya told the court he also did not see Ongwen in the contingent of LRA fighters who attacked the Ugandan army barracks at Pajule. Lokwiya testified on Monday and Tuesday this week.
He said he was a member of the LRA contingent that attacked the Pajule barracks. He was unable to tell the court about a separate LRA contingent that attacked the Pajule trading center because he did not see anything that contingent did.
Lokwiya did not state the year or month the Pajule attack took place. The defense and prosecution have agreed the attack, which Ongwen has been charged with, took place on October 10, 2003. Ongwen is facing 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the Pajule attack.
Ongwen has been charged with a further 60 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity he is alleged to have committed as an LRA commander between July 2002 and December 2005. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
On Monday, Lokwiya told the court the LRA abducted him in 1994, and he escaped the group in 2004. Lokwiya said that during the 10 years he was with the LRA he was assigned to Control Altar, the group’s high command. He said he served in several capacities including in the operations and support units of Control Altar.
Thomas Obhof, one of Ongwen’s lawyers, questioned Lokwiya on Monday about the Pajule attack. Some of the questions Obhof asked Lokwiya were general such as which commanders participated in a meeting ahead of the attack, or RV as the meetings were commonly referred to in the LRA. Obhof also asked him what reasons fighters were given for the LRA attack on Pajule.
Lokwiya said LRA deputy leader Vincent Otti, Raska Lukwiya, Nyeko Yadin, Lacati, Mzee Banya, Ocaya, and Opiru were the commanders who took part in the RV ahead of the attack. He said Otti addressed the fighters before they went to Pajule.
“What I can recollect now is we were told to go and attack the barracks and collect food. We were also told to abduct people,” said Lokwiya.
Obhof then asked Lokwiya questions about the Pajule attack that were closed to the public. Before Lokwiya began his testimony on Monday, Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said Trial Chamber IX would not grant him assurances against self-incrimination, but any testimony he gave that could be self-incriminating would be closed to the public. Lokwiya also had a legal adviser, Anthony Okulo, to help with him any part of his testimony that could be self-incriminating.
Later, Obhof asked Lokwiya about Ongwen.
“Mr. Witness did you see Mr. Ongwen at the RV for Pajule?” asked Obhof.
“I do not recall seeing him,” replied Lokwiya.
“Did Mr. Ongwen go to the barracks to fight?” asked Obhof.
“No, it was Bogi who went to the barracks,” answered Lokwiya. Previous witnesses, such as Christopher Oloya, have said Bogi led the attack on the barracks at Pajule.
Judge Schmitt also questioned Lokwiya about whether he saw Ongwen at Pajule.
“Mr. Witness, did you see Mr. Ongwen after the attack at the RV?” asked Judge Schmitt.
“No, I did not see him,” replied Lokwiya.
Obhof also asked him whether Ongwen was present among the larger group of fighters who had been selected to go attack Pajule before they broke off into different attack groups.
“No, I did not see him either,” answered Lokwiya.
Lokwiya is the third defense witness who said they participated in the Pajule attack but did not see Ongwen. Other witnesses such as Oloya have been categorical that Ongwen had no role in the Pajule attack. Ahead of Ongwen’s trial, the defense said he had an alibi for the Pajule attack.
Prosecutor Kamran Choudhry cross-examined Lokwiya on Tuesday. He asked Lokwiya questions about the Pajule attack but not about whether Lokwiya saw Ongwen at Pajule, at least in open court.
“Mr. Witness. you mentioned an RV before the attack at Pajule. The RV was at a place called Wanduku, correct?” asked Choudhry.
“Correct,” replied Lokwiya.
“And there were different LRA units that met up at the Wanduku RV, correct?” asked Choudhry.
“Correct,” answered Lokwiya.
Choudhry asked him whether the LRA members assembled at Wanduku numbered about 600.
“Correct,” replied Lokwiya.
He also asked him whether all the LRA fighters had weapons when they went to Pajule.
“Correct,” answered Lokwiya.
“The LRA groups also had walkie-talkies with them, correct?” asked Choudhry.
“Yes, they did have,” replied Lokwiya.
Later, Choudhry questioned Lokwiya about what he heard about LRA attacks on the Lukodi and Odek IDP camps. Among the charges against Ongwen are 26 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in attacks on Lukodi and Odek, which took place in 2004.
Choudhry’s questions were based on a statement Lokwiya gave prosecution investigators in 2004 in which Lokwiya told the investigators that he had been told Ongwen was involved in LRA attacks on Lukodi where the LRA killed 40 civilians and Odek where they killed 30 civilians. Choudhry also referred Lokwiya to a separate document in which he is recorded as making similar allegations.
“I already said that that was a young boy that had escaped from Odomi,” said Lokwiya. He had told the court a boy was the source of his information. Lokwiya said he met the boy he was referring to after he, Lokwiya, had escaped from the LRA, and they met at a rehabilitation center. Odomi is one of the names Ongwen was commonly referred to in the LRA.
Choudhry then asked Lokwiya whether the boy also told him Ongwen led an attack on Abok in which 29 people were killed. Lokwiya said the boy also told him about that attack. Ongwen has also been charged with the attack on Abok.
“And it was because of these attacks and what you learnt from the child that you think Dominic Ongwen is a ruthless person, don’t you?” asked Choudhry.
“It was because of that information I got, that is why I made that statement,” replied Lokwiya.
Obhof asked Lokwiya a few questions in re-examination after Choudhry concluded his cross-examination of the witness. Lokwiya concluded his testimony on Tuesday.
Charles Opio testified on Thursday.