International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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Gauging Public Interest (Part Two): Why 44% of Community Members in Northern Uganda Are Not Following Ongwen’s Trial

Last week, the International Justice Monitor published the first part of a three part series presenting results from a rapid assessment conducted in September 2017. The assessment involved 50 community members and civil society representatives in northern Uganda and set out to measure the level of public interest in following the trial of Dominic Ongwen. While 56% of the respondents consulted said they were following the trial, many of them also admitted that they were only following occasionally or on an irregular basis. The remaining 44% of the respondents said they were not following the trial at all. This second post in the series examines views from the participants who said they were not following the trial, and in particular, … Continue Reading

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Gauging Public Interest (Part One): Survey Reveals That Over 56% of Community Members and CSO Representatives are Following Ongwen’s Trial

This article, the first in a series of three posts, uses results from a rapid assessment of 50 community members and civil society representatives in northern Uganda in September 2017 to measure the level of public interest in following the trial of Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court (ICC). While 56% of respondents said they were following the trial, many of them admitted they were only following on an irregular basis. The remaining 44% said they were not following the trial at all, citing a variety of reasons ranging from busy schedules to a lack of interest because the trial is taking place far away from Uganda. The findings also revealed that radio is the most popular method by … Continue Reading

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Community Members React to ICC Witness’s Testimony That He Did Not Know of Atrocities by Ugandan Government Soldiers

On October 3, the director of legal services at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Nabaasa Kanyogonya, denied knowledge of allegations that military commanders of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) committed atrocities in northern Uganda. This was in response to a question by Krispus Ayena Odongo, the lead lawyer for Dominic Ongwen, asking him to “confirm to the court whether there were hues and cries about incidents of indiscipline of UPDF officers in the prosecution of the war against the LRA.” Kanyogonya responded, “I do not know of any commanders of the UPDF committing atrocities in the war against the LRA.” This article presents reactions to Kanyogonya’s testimony in the community in northern Uganda.

Kanyogonya made the comments … Continue Reading

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Thinking Ahead: Community Expectations After the End of the Ongwen Trial

In the course of outreach conducted in communities affected by the conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda, community members frequently raised the question of what would happen if the International Criminal Court (ICC) does not find Dominic Ongwen guilty. This article explores the opinions of community members regarding Ongwen’s future in the aftermath of the trial, and particularly in the event that he is acquitted. The community expressed their opinions on where they felt Ongwen should live, the relationship between him and community members, and how they felt reconciliation should be promoted.

Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the LRA is currently on trial before the ICC in The Hague. He is charged with 70 counts of … Continue Reading

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How the Trial of Dominic Ongwen Has Shaped Attitudes Toward International Criminal Justice in Uganda

Uganda is currently the focus of two international criminal trials: that of Thomas Kwoyelo before the International Crimes Division (ICD) in Uganda, and Dominic Ongwen before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands. Both Kwoyelo and Ongwen are charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda while in the service of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This has inevitably stirred debate in Uganda regarding which of the two courts is more effective, and shaped attitudes towards international criminal justice in the country.

Ongwen is currently standing trial before the ICC in The Hague. His trial began on December 6, 2016. He is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in … Continue Reading

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