International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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Thrice Abducted: Perspectives from a Former LRA Signaler who Served with Ongwen

He was abducted three times and spent over 10 years in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), where he served as a force signaler. After he finally escaped, he was granted amnesty by the Ugandan government. This article explores the perspectives of this former long-serving LRA fighter regarding the trial of Dominic Ongwen, whom he met and served with while in captivity. In this article, we shall refer to him as “Omara” to protect his identity. Omara expressed his opinion about the trial during an interview conducted with him in northern Uganda in March 2018.

Ongwen, a former LRA commander is currently on trial at International Criminal Court (ICC), where he is charged with over 70 counts of war crimes and crimes … Continue Reading

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How the ICC Field Office in Uganda is Using SMS to Update Communities about the Ongwen Trial

In northern Uganda, many people have expressed interest in following the trial of former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen. However, most people are unable to do so on a regular basis due to lack of convenient channels. For this reason, the International Criminal Court (ICC) field office in Uganda began disseminating information through short message services (SMS) or text messages. This article explores perspectives of select community members in Lukodi village regarding the effectiveness of the initiative.

Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been on trial since December 6, 2016. He is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the former Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps of … Continue Reading

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ICC Trust Fund for Victims’ Delegation Visits Gulu; Pledges More Support for Rehabilitation Programs

Last month, the government of Ireland in partnership with the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) at the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) led a delegation of States Parties representatives to northern Uganda and interacted with conflict survivors and conflict affected communities. This is significant because as Dominic Ongwen’s trial continues at the ICC, a key factor that continues to generate debate is the mental, physical, and psychosocial rehabilitation of conflict survivors.

According to a press release [pdf] by the TFV, the visit was initiated by the government of Ireland and was aimed at monitoring and “reviewing implementation of TFV projects in northern Uganda, meeting with victims and survivors and affected communities who have been receiving support from the TFV.” The visit was … Continue Reading

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Civil Society in Uganda Outraged by Controversial Newspaper Article Clearing Ugandan Army of Committing War Crimes

As the trial of Dominic Ongwen continues at the International Criminal Court (ICC), civil society practitioners and community members in Uganda were left infuriated by a newspaper article purporting that the ICC had cleared the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) of war crimes in northern Uganda. The article appeared in the New Vision newspaper on January 4, 2018, titled: “ICC Clears UPDF of War Crimes,” and immediately resulted in strong reactions on Facebook and questions on Twitter, as well as on other social media platforms. As it turned out, however, the headline and portions of the accompanying article were taken out of context.

The authors of the article based their headline on remarks by Dahirou Sant-Anna, the international cooperation adivisor in … Continue Reading

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A Year Down the Road: Community Member’s Perspectives of Ongwen’s Trial Since December 2016

The trial of Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), began on December 6, 2016 before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Over the past year, more than 50 prosecution witnesses have testified, marking significant progress in the trial. However, the trial has drawn mixed reactions from the public in Uganda, with some in favor of the process and others against it.

Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the former internally displaced persons (IDP) camps of Lukodi, Abok, Pajule, and Odek. He is also charged with sexual and gender based crimes and with the conscription and use of child soldiers.

The trial resumed on January 15, after a six-week … Continue Reading

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Uganda’s Ambiguous Relationship with the ICC Amidst Ongwen’s Trial

Uganda’s relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC) could be described as ambiguous given a series of recent disturbing incidents. Key among them is the tenacity to twice host Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir despite being a state signatory to the Rome Statute of the ICC, and, moreover, amidst an ongoing trial of a former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander from Uganda.

The Sudanese president has two outstanding arrest warrants issued by the ICC in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide allegedly committed in Darfur, Sudan, where it is estimated that around 300,000 people were killed and over two million were forced to leave their homes between 2003 and 2008. However, the Sudanese president has … Continue Reading

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Q&A with Former LRA Abductee who Served Under Dominic Ongwen

This article presents an abridged version of an interview conducted with a former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) abductee who served under Dominic Ongwen for one year. Omara (not real name) was abducted in 1997 when he was a 14-year-old pupil at Pader Kilak Primary School in Pader District, northern Uganda. The LRA took him to South Sudan, and shortly after arriving, he was assigned to serve under Ongwen’s command. When Ongwen’s bodyguard was killed in a helicopter gunship attack, Omara was asked to carry the dead man’s gun. He finally escaped the LRA in 1998 and returned home where he was reunited with family.

Ongwen, a former LRA commander, is currently on trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC). … Continue Reading

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Gauging Public Interest (Part Three): Community Members’ Suggestions for Increasing Interest in Dominic Ongwen’s ICC Trial

This article explores suggestions from community members in northern Uganda regarding what needs to be done to increase public interest in the trial of Dominic Ongwen. The article follows two previous International Justice Monitor posts that present results from a rapid assessment conducted in September 2017 involving 50 community members and civil society representatives in northern Uganda. The assessment aimed to measure the level of public interest in following the trial of Dominic Ongwen, and established that 56% of the respondents were following the trial, while 44% said they were not following the trial. The third and last post in the series examines views from the participants on how public interest in following the trial can be enhanced.

Ongwen, a former commander … Continue Reading

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