International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Expert says former child soldiers are concerned most with stigma, education, and earning a living

A psychologist specialized in treating former child soldiers told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the issues most important to former child soldiers are stigma, their interrupted education, and lack of a livelihood.

Michael Gibbs Wessells told the court on May 15 that former child soldiers did not rank their mental health as a top priority. He said the focus of many mental health specialists on providing clinical diagnosis and treatment to former child soldiers was “a cookie-cutter approach”.

Wessells said rehabilitating former child soldiers should include listening to them and combining Western psychiatry and psychology with traditional healing.

“Young people often tell me that stigma is a bigger problem than presumed or actual mental illness. Others say it is really the loss … Continue Reading

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Expert Testifies About Impact of Sexual Violence on the Mental Health of Survivors

A psychiatrist told the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday, May 14, that stabilizing a survivor of sexual violence is a crucial first step in dealing with the trauma the survivor has suffered.

Daryn Scott Reicherter told the court that this may be more important than helping a survivor of sexual violence get medical care. Reicherter was giving his opinion based on his experience in researching trauma and sexual violence in different parts of the world.

He is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and the director of the Human Rights and Trauma Mental Health Laboratory at the university.

Reicherter also based his opinion on his review of transcripts of the testimony of several survivors of sexual violence who have testified in … Continue Reading

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Researcher Tells ICC that LRA Attacks Have a Long-Term Impact on Survivors

A researcher told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) attacks on three camps for internally displaced people (IDP) 14 years ago continue to have a negative impact on survivors of those attacks as well as their children.

Teddy Atim told the court on May 4 that survivors of the attacks on the Abok, Lukodi, and Odek IDP camps were generally worse off compared to other northern Ugandans who did not suffer similar attacks. Atim is a researcher with the Feinstein International Center of Tufts University.

Referring to research she conducted with others, Atim said there is a higher percentage of people with disabilities among survivors of the Abok, Lukodi, and Odek attacks compared to northern Ugandans not … Continue Reading

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Long-Time Councilor Says Lukodi Residents Still Suffer Impact of LRA Attack 14 Years Ago

A long serving councilor told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that many Lukodi residents have not recovered psychologically or economically since the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) attacked a camp in the area 14 years ago.

Gibson Okulu told the court on May 3 that Lukodi residents no longer collaborated on different projects as they used before the May 19, 2004 LRA attack on the Lukodi camp for internally displaced people (IDP).

He described many Lukodi residents suffering mental breakdowns or showing signs of depression. Okulu said those residents who were able to farm have not been able to regain the standard of livelihood they had before the May 2004 attack on the Lukodi.

Okulu said he has been a local councilor one (LC1) … Continue Reading

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Teacher Describes Lukodi Primary School Students as ‘A Lost Generation’

A long-serving teacher described students at Lukodi Primary School as a lost generation because for the past 14 years only a few have advanced beyond primary school.

Vincent Oyet told the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday, May 2, that these students were taught under adverse conditions and have had a troubled childhood.

Oyet was testifying in the trial of a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Dominic Ongwen. He told the court he has been a teacher at Lukodi Primary School for the past 16 years or so.

He testified about the period between 2002, when he first became a teacher at Lukodi Primary School, and 2006 when he described the security situation in Lukodi as “starting to normalize.” The … Continue Reading

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Witness Talks of Not Being Accepted Back in School After Escaping LRA

On Tuesday, May 1, a witness described to the International Criminal Court (ICC) how he changed schools three times after students and teachers taunted and chased him away for being in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) for two years.

Witness V-2 told the court on Tuesday he eventually abandoned school and turned to farming to help his family. Witness V-2 was testifying in the trial of a former LRA commander, Dominic Ongwen, which resumed on Tuesday after an 18-day break.

The testimony of Witness V-2 marked the beginning of the victims’ phase of the trial. This is after ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda formally gave notice on April 13 that the prosecution had concluded presenting its case. The last prosecution witness, psychologist Roland … Continue Reading

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What Community Members in Northern Uganda Think About the Prosecution’s Performance Following the Conclusion of its Case

On April 12, 2018, the last prosecution witness in the trial of Dominic Ongwen presented his testimony, ending the prosecution’s side of the case. This article presents perceptions of community members in northern Uganda on the prosecution’s performance. The perceptions explore whether community members are satisfied with the overall performance of the prosecution, their choice of witnesses, the evidence adduced, and what they liked or did not like about the trial so far.

Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), has been on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) since December 2016. He is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including sexual and gender based crimes, committed from 2002 to 2005. Over … Continue Reading

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Sexual Violence against Men and Boys and its Relevance to the Trial of Dominic Ongwen

On February 2, 2018, the legal representatives for victims (LRV) in the trial of Dominic Ongwen sought leave to present evidence highlighting the harm victims have suffered as a result of crimes committed by the accused. Among the five issues highlighted by the LRV was the infliction of sexual violence on men and boys. The LRV’s submission raises a question regarding the relevancy of sexual violence committed against men and boys by the LRA, particularly given the fact that the LRA was known to target mostly women and girls.

Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is alleged to have committed the crimes between July 2002 and December 2005 while he was a commander … Continue Reading

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Dwog Cen Paco (Come Back Home): The Radio Program that Could Have Influenced Dominic Ongwen’s Surrender

At the height of the conflict in northern Uganda, various methods were employed to reach out to Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters, urging them to abandon rebellion and return home. John Oryema Lacambel, or simply Lacambel, is a radio presenter who outdid himself and became popular because of a program called “Come Back Home” or Dwog Cen Paco in Acholi language, through which he played traditional Acholi music and persuaded many LRA fighters to surrender.

Could this program also have influenced Dominic Ongwen, the former LRA former commander who is currently on trial at International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, to abandon rebellion? This article presents excerpts of an interview with Lacambel, who continues to be a presenter at Mega … Continue Reading

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Prosecution Psychologist Says Ongwen Suffered Trauma While in the LRA But Did Not Have a Mental Disorder

A prosecution psychologist criticized how two defense mental health experts concluded Dominic Ongwen had a mental disorder between 2002 and 2005, saying he found their reports contradictory.

Roland Weierstall told the International Criminal Court (ICC) when he testified on Wednesday, April 11, and Thursday, April 12, there was no doubt that Ongwen suffered trauma between 2002 and 2005. These years cover the period during which the ICC prosecution alleges Ongwen to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Weierstall told the court Ongwen suffered trauma while he was a member of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) but that did not automatically mean he had a mental disorder.

He also said he doubted whether Ongwen had attempted to commit suicide eight times while … Continue Reading

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