Presiding Judge Sets Date for Closing Statements in Ongwen Trial

The Presiding Judge in the trial of Dominic Ongwen has set March 10 of next year as the day when lawyers will start making their closing statements.

Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said in an order he issued Wednesday last week that he set the date because it is “probable” all the evidence in the trial will have been submitted by December. Judge Schmitt gave lawyers until February 26 next year to file their closing briefs. He said he will give further details concerning the closing statements.

At present, the defense is presenting their case. Since the defense phase of the trial began in September last year 51 defense witnesses have testified to date. The most recent defense witness to testify was Justine Edeku Ooja, a former member of the Ugandan government-backed militia group, the Arrow Boys. Ooja testified on September 30. The defense had previously indicated they intend to call close as many witnesses as the prosecution did.

The prosecution phase of the trial began in December 2016 and concluded in April 2018. During the prosecution phase of the trial 69 witnesses testified in court over a period of 142 days, and in a recent statement, a representative from the Office of the Prosecutor said that the prosecution had presented testimonies of 116 witnesses. The discrepancy could come from several witnesses whose testimony was admitted through Rule 68(2) of the court’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which allows prior recorded testimony to be admitted into evidence if a witness cannot be present in court.

During the victims’ phase of the trial seven witnesses testified over a period of eight days in May 2018.

Ongwen has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity he is alleged to have committed as a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The crimes are alleged to have occurred between July 2002 and December 2005 in northern Uganda. Ongwen has pleaded not guilty to all counts.