Another Defense Witness Says She Did Not See Ongwen During Pajule Attack

A former member of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court (ICC) she did not see Dominic Ongwen when the LRA attacked the Pajule camp for internally displaced people (IDP) almost 16 years ago.

Witness D-85 told the court on Friday that her role in the October 10, 2003 attack on Pajule was “to collect food.”

When prosecutor Sanyu Ndagire cross-examined Witness D-85, she described the witness’ role in the attack as “minor,” suggesting she would not have known much about what happened during that attack, including whether Ongwen was present.

The witness also testified about what she saw during an LRA attack on the Abok IDP camp in June 2004. Ongwen has been charged with 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the Pajule attack. He has also been charged with 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the Abok attack.

In total, Ongwen has been charged with 70 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 Friday, Witness D-85 told the court she was among the foot soldiers who participated in the LRA attack on Pajule. Thomas Obhof, one of Ongwen’s lawyers, asked her whether she saw Ongwen where LRA fighters and commanders assembled ahead of the attack. She said she did not.

“From what you understood, what was the overall purpose of going to Pajule?” asked Obhof.

“The reason why we went to Pajule was to collect food,” replied Witness D-85.

A little later Obhof asked her about Ongwen. He observed that the witness had said she did not see him where the LRA had gathered before the attack.

“Do you know if Mr. Ongwen was at Pajule?” asked Obhof.

“I did not see him. I do not know,” answered Witness D-85.

When it was her turn to cross-examine Witness D-85, Ndagire followed up on this line of questioning.

“You agree with me there were many of you at Pajule, correct?” asked Ndagire.

“There were many people, yes, indeed, but the number that went to Abok was bigger than the number that went to Pajule,” answered Witness D-85.

“You don’t recall every commander who was at Pajule, right?” asked Ndagire.

“No,” replied the witness.

“And in fact, your role at Pajule was quite minor. It was to collect food, correct?” asked Ndagire.

“That’s correct,” replied Witness D-85.

The defense has previously said Ongwen has an alibi for the Pajule attack. Witness D-85 was not categorical that Ongwen did not take part in the Pajule attack, but her testimony follows that of other defense witnesses who, like her, say they did not see Ongwen during the Pajule attack, or have been more categorical that Ongwen had no role in that attack.

After Obhof and Ndagire finished questioning Witness D-85, Anushka Sehmi, a lawyer for one group of victims, asked her some questions. Sehmi asked her whether after she escaped the LRA in 2004 she was able to resume her education. Witness D-85 said she was able to.

“Could you help the court understand what made you decide to escape?” asked Sehmi.

“It wasn’t my wish to be in the bush. That is why I decided to escape,” answered Witness D-85.

Sehmi asked her whether she had received any assistance since she escaped from the LRA. Witness D-85 said she had not.

“And what impact did your abduction have on your life now?” asked Sehmi.

“My abduction has made my life very difficult. I am not happy. I cannot be happy like people who had not been abducted. I am constantly sad,” replied Witness D-85.

The witness testified under in-court measures to protect her identity from the public. These included her face being distorted in broadcasts of the hearing and portions of her testimony were closed to the public.

Witness D-85 concluded her testimony on Friday. Charles Lokwiya was the next witness, and he testified on Monday and Tuesday.