Defense Mental Health Experts Will Testify in November

Trial Chamber IX has scheduled hearings in the last two weeks of November for defense mental health experts to explain why, in their opinion, Dominic Ongwen had a mental illness or defect during the period that he has been charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Describing the upcoming evidence of the defense mental health experts as of “high importance,” the chamber said in an October 1 decision that these experts will testify between November 18 and November 22.

The chamber also decided the prosecution may call a rebuttal witness to testify on either November 25 or November 26. The judges said that if the defense so wishes they could call a rejoinder witness to testify on either November 28 or November 29.

Part of the case the defense team is presenting is that Ongwen is not responsible for the crimes he has been charged with because he had a mental illness or defect during the period he is alleged to have committed those crimes.

Last year, the prosecution called two psychiatrists and a psychologist to show the court that Ongwen can be held responsible for the crimes he has been charged with. The prosecution expert witnesses were psychiatrist Gillian Clare Mezey; psychiatrist Catherine Abbo; and psychologist Roland Weierstall.

Mezey testified on March 19 and March 20, 2018. Abbo testified March 26 to 28, 2018. Weierstall testified April 11 and 12, 2018.

Ongwen has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity he allegedly committed as a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) between July 2002 and December 2005 in northern Uganda. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Trial Chamber IX made its October 1 decision after it received submissions from the defense and the prosecution. The defense filed a request on September 17 asking that their experts be allowed to testify between November 18 and November 22, which is when they will be available to do so. The defense also asked the experts be allowed to testify jointly, a request the chamber rejected. In its filing, the defense only referred to their experts as D-41 and D-42.

The prosecution filed two submissions on the matter. On September 19, the prosecution filed a response to the defense’s September 17 request. The prosecution indicated in a separate filing on September 17 that they were considering calling a rebuttal witness after the defense called their mental health experts. In that request, the prosecution also wanted to know when the defense experts would testify.

In the September 17 filing, the prosecution said Weierstall would be their rebuttal witness. The prosecution also said D-41 is Dr. [Dickens] Akena and D-42 is Dr. [Emilio] Ovuga.

During the March and April 2018 testimony of Mezey, Abbo, and Weierstall, Akena and Ovuga were named and the defense later applied to have their names redacted from the record. Single Judge Bertram Schmitt ruled against that request twice, in July 2018 and October 2018.

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