International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Low Turnout at the Lukodi Memorial Prayers as Victims Express Dissatisfaction with the Slow Pace of Ongwen’s Trial

Lukodi village is located approximately 17 kilometers from Gulu town. It was the scene of a horrendous massacre by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in May 2004, leading to the death of over 69 civilians. Dominic Ongwen is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in part due to what happened here.

Ongwen’s trial before the ICC started on December 6, 2016. He is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in attacks on camps for people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda. The attacks took place between 2003 and 2004 in the camps of Pajule, Odek, Abok, and Lukodi. Ongwen has also been charged with sexual and gender-based crimes, including the crime … Continue Reading

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Simone Gbagbo Acquitted by the Abidjan Assize Court: Between the Independence of the Judiciary and a Political Twist to Save the Day

Simone Gbagbo, wife of former Ivorian Head of State Laurent Gbagbo, has been on trial before Ivorian court for the past ten months for crimes against humanity after being sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in 2016 for undermining state security during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. Since February 2012, she has also been subject to an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for four counts of crimes against humanity for acts allegedly committed during the post-election period. Côte d’Ivoire refused to transfer her because it considered that Ms. Gbagbo could be tried at the local level for the same charges. At the same time, her husband Laurent Gbagbo and their political party’s youth leader, Charles Blé Goudé, have … Continue Reading

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Acquittement de Simone Gbagbo par la Cour d’Assises d’Abidjan: Entre Independance de la Justice et Pirouette Politique our Sauver les Meubles

Simone Gbagbo, épouse de l’ancien chef d’Etat Ivoirien Laurent Gbagbo était poursuivie par la justice ivoirienne depuis dix mois pour des crimes contre l’humanité, après sa condamnation à 20 ans d’emprisonnement en 2016 pour des faits d’atteinte à la sûreté de l’Etat durant la crise post-électorale de 2010-2011 en Côte d’Ivoire. Depuis février 2012, elle fait l’objet d’un mandat d’arrêt de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI) pour quatre chefs de crimes contre l’humanité pour des faits qui auraient été commis lors de la période post-électorale. La Côte d’Ivoire a refusé de la transférer car elle considérait que Mme Gbagbo pouvait être jugée au niveau local pour les mêmes faits. Dans le même temps, son époux Laurent Gbagbo et le leader … Continue Reading

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Human Rights Trials in Guatemala: “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back”

Since the Efrain Rios Montt trial took place in 2013, there has been a steady stream of investigations and prosecutions for grave crimes committed during Guatemala’s civil war. Despite tremendous opposition from former military officials and their supporters, prosecutors and judges continue to take on these challenging cases in an effort to fight impunity in the country, which until recently has been the norm.

In a podcast produced by the Washington Office in Latin America (WOLA), George Mason University professor Jo-Marie Burt discusses the history of grave crimes cases in Guatemala, including the cases against Rios Montt, and the role that the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has had in strengthening the justice system charged with prosecuting these cases. Ongoing … Continue Reading

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Just or Unjust? Mixed Reactions on Whether Ongwen Should be on Trial

As the trial of former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen continues before the International Criminal Court (ICC), people in northern Uganda are still divided on whether or not his trial is justified. In response to the question of whether they felt Ongwen’s trial was fair or not, Civil Society Organization (CSO) representatives responded in different ways, citing different reasons for their answers.

Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in attacks on camps for people displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda. The attacks took place between 2003 and 2004 in the camps of Pajule, Odek, Abok, and Lukodi. Ongwen has also been charged with sexual and gender-based crimes, including the … Continue Reading

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Can International Justice Survive in an Age of Renewed Nationalist Fervor?

In an opinion piece published on April 10, 2017, by World Politics Review, James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, argues that the international justice has become irrevocably embedded in global politics.  He writes:

“International justice has taken a reputational nosedive since the late 1990s, when the creation of the International Criminal Court signaled a new age of global accountability. Some of this has involved predictable pushback from political leaders who would rather not be called to account. But other complaints resonate more widely.

Some say that the ICC’s focus on Africa and its inability to address atrocities from North Korea to Syria reflect the double standards of global power, not the impartiality of law. The worldwide resurgence … Continue Reading

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ICC Chamber Excludes Victims from Bashir Cooperation Proceedings

On Friday, April 7, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will hold a hearing in the case against Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir, for the first time in seven years. Pre-Trial Chamber II will hear submissions on whether action should be taken against South Africa for failing to surrender President Bashir during his visit to that country in June 2015 for an African Union summit.

Notably absent from the hearing will be any representative of the victims of Bashir’s alleged crimes, although a small number of them have been granted status to participate in the case.

The role given to victims in ICC proceedings is often described as ground-breaking. Victims’ voices, so it is claimed, are what distinguish this court from previous international … Continue Reading

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To Punish or to Pardon? Perspectives on Accountability and Forgiveness in the Case of Dominic Ongwen

Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is currently on trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC). He is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the former internally displaced persons (IDP) camps of Lukodi, Odek, Abok, and Pajule. His trial, which started on December 6, 2016, is progressing steadily, with the prosecution currently making submissions.

As the trial continues, many people continue to remain divided on whether Ongwen should stand trial and be punished on the one hand, or whether he should be forgiven and acquitted on the other hand. This article presents perspectives from both sides.

To Pardon

The ICC has been involved in Uganda since 2004 when a referral was … Continue Reading

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Human Rights Groups to Inter-American Court: Impunity is Alive and Well in Guatemala

President Jimmy Morales invited the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to conduct its 57th session in Guatemala City, perhaps hoping to repair the country’s tattered relationship with the international organization. However, in extending this invitation, he may not have expected the court to be reviewing Guatemala’s own record on accountability for grave crimes.

During its visit, which took place from March 20 to 25, 2017, the court held a private, closed-door session to review the implementation of 14 sentences it handed down between 1998 and 2012 against the state of Guatemala in grave human rights cases related to the internal armed conflict. The session was a follow-up to a similar hearing held in Costa Rica in 2014, when human rights organizations … Continue Reading

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Combative Witness Raises Questions about Witness Preparation at the ICC

Earlier this month a prosecution witness testifying in the trial of Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court (ICC) made headlines when he was cautioned by the judges for his behavior on the witness stand. As a member of the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF), Witness P-003 intercepted radio communications between members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during the conflict in northern Uganda, and he was called to The Hague testify about those communications.

However, upon cross-examination Ongwen’s lead defense lawyer, Krispus Ayena Odongo, in an effort to impugn the witness’s credibility, presented a letter in court that alleged the witness acted inappropriately during intercept operations and drew a gun on an intelligence officer working from the same compound. The … Continue Reading

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