International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Relatives in Coorom Say Ongwen Deserves Forgiveness

Approximately 40 kilometers north of Gulu town lies the little village of Coorom, located in Lamogi Sub-County, Amuru District, Uganda. Coorom is the home of Dominic Ongwen, the former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who is currently on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Prior to the capture Ongwen in 2015, Coorom was just another quiet and tranquil village in post-conflict northern Uganda, struggling to re-establish itself after many years of fighting. However, after the capture of Ongwen, Coorom has risen to prominence, attracting researchers and transitional justice practitioners. In addition, since the trial of Ongwen started in December 2016, the ICC field office in Uganda … Continue Reading

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How Tens of Thousands Attended the Opening of Ongwen’s Trial in Uganda

On December 6, 2016, the trial of Dominic Ongwen opened before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands. Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in northern Uganda while in the service of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

A number of people, including academics, journalists, representatives of civil society organizations, and even Ugandans living in the Netherlands turned up at the ICC headquarters in The Hague to witness the opening of the trial. Among the people who traveled to witness the opening of the trial was a delegation of 10 Ugandans, who were sponsored by the ICC field office in Uganda, with funding from the Danish Embassy. The delegation was … Continue Reading

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We Matter: Putting Victims at the Helm of the Transitional Justice Ship in Uganda

Transitional justice discussions around victims, particularly in reference to northern Uganda, often collapse victims’ interests into two broad categories. On the one hand, sweeping claims are made that all victims are interested in reconciliation, which is a key aspect of traditional justice mechanisms. While another set of victims, reportedly, prefers court prosecutions. Each interest is often presented as being in competition, contrary, and in exclusion of all other transitional justice processes.

The result is a rather simplistic definition of what victims want, largely on the basis of their geographical location. A review of the literature on victim interests in the transitional justice process in Uganda will unearth numerous claims on what the “victims of northern Uganda,” and/or the “Acholi victims” desire. … Continue Reading

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An ‘Opportunity of a Lifetime’ for Community Leaders from Northern Uganda

On December 6, the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) started in The Hague. Ongwen is accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in former internally displaced persons’ camps of Odek, Lukodi, Pajule, and Abok, in northern Uganda. Ongwen has been in detention since January 2016 when he surrendered to the Séléka rebels in the Central Africa Republic and was transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to await trial.

To bolster victim participation, the ICC field office, with support from the Danish Embassy in Uganda, mobilized and sponsored a delegation of ten community representatives to attend the opening of Ongwen’s trial.

The delegation was led by His Highness Rwot David Onen Acana, … Continue Reading

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Hopes and Expectations: Perceptions of Victims and Civil Society on the Eve of Ongwen’s Trial

The trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is due to start Tuesday at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, with opening statements from the prosecution and the victims’ representatives.  Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in the former IDP camps of Odek, Lukodi, Pajule, and Abok in northern Uganda.

In light of this, the International Justice (IJ) Monitor  conducted a brief consultation with community members and select representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) working in northern Uganda to get an understanding of what their expectations about the trial was.

The overall reactions were mixed. While many of them were happy that the trial was … Continue Reading

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What Do Community Members in Northern Uganda Want to Know About Ongwen’s Case?

Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) currently awaits trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. He has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that allegedly occurred during the conflict between the LRA and government of Uganda from 2003 to 2005. After many months of preparation, opening statements by the prosecution, defense, and victims’ lawyers are due to begin on December 6, 2016.

Before and after his arrest in 2015, the ICC field office in Uganda and civil society organizations working on peace building in northern Uganda were engaged in conducting community outreach, with the aim of sensitizing the people about the work of the ICC.

An outreach session … Continue Reading

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Why Reparations Will Be Central in Determining the Success of Ongwen’s Trial

Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been in the custody of the International Criminal Court (ICC) since January 2015 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ongwen’s trial, due to commence on December 6, 2016, presents the best opportunity yet for victims of conflict in northern Uganda to receive reparations but only in the event that Ongwen is found guilty.

As ICC Outreach Coordinator for Kenya and Uganda Maria Mabinty Kamara explained in a conversation, ”Reparations can be ordered by the court only after the trial is concluded and if the accused is found guilty. In such eventuality, the court may issue an order for reparations to victims of the crimes and to … Continue Reading

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A Reversal of Roles: How the Government and Victims in Northern Uganda Have Switched Their Positions on the ICC

Opening statements in the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who is charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda, are scheduled to begin December 6, 2016. Ongwen’s trial, however, comes after several years of an uphill battle by the ICC to win support in Uganda. Having been asked to investigate the LRA for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2004, the ICC is today openly criticized by the very government that invited it in the first place. Oppositely, the ICC now has significant support from conflict-affected communities who initially opposed it.

The ICC’s involvement in Uganda started in 2004 with a referral by the … Continue Reading

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The Importance of Comprehensive Outreach in the Case of Ongwen and the Role of Civil Society Organizations

On December 6, 2016, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will commence the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the villages of Lukodi, Odek, Abok, and Pajule, in northern Uganda. A key factor that will be significant in ensuring awareness and understanding by victims and the general public in Uganda will be community outreach.

Since the court opened its investigation in 2004, the ICC field office in Uganda has been involved in conducting outreach in the northern part of the country to educate the population about the ICC and how it operates. After the capture of Ongwen in 2015, the ICC field office intensified their … Continue Reading

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ICC Makes Progress on Reparations for Victims in Lubanga Case

On October 21, 2016, Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) approved and gave the Trust Fund for Victims (Trust Fund) the go-ahead to implement its plan on symbolic collective reparations in relation to the Thomas Lubanga case. The significance of this decision will not be lost on victims who have followed and participated in this process.

This step forward comes after a long wait by victims. Lubanga, whose trial began in 2009, was convicted and sentenced by the ICC in 2012. Judges held Lubanga responsible for the war crime of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between July 2002 … Continue Reading

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